Issue 22: Justin Lacour

carrying a torch

An ocher cat slips across the yard like the tongue of a story.  You ask about my plans after graduation. I don’t know. I’ve always been good with tools, so something like that.  You said you can still recite “Journey of the Magi” from heart, like that’s something you get from more school. We smoked many cigarettes, flicking them in solid arcs into the street. I hate flags at half-mast. There should be a complex system of hoses in Mount Rushmore so George Washington can cry during periods of national distress. You shake your head. No one could ever agree on when to switch on the faucet; a million flags is better. The three trees in your yard stand for your three children: one grew up straight; the second is scraggly and strong; the third, I don’t remember. A good punchline would be if I ever saw you again, you were pruning, or better yet, chopping down one of your kids. But life doesn’t have punchlines. Or it does, but you have to carve time in a way that’s arbitrary or inspired like an angel made entirely of blades passing down your block, its plans of love obscure in the early morning light. You move your hair back from your eyes. May whoever you hold in your arms tonight tell you about the scars and how much they hurt, but also the times they glowed.

Autumn II

In another age, chairs dotted this beach, the immaculately-dressed convalescents watching the ocean, waiting for the waves to form a hammer, or at least a fist, knocking small boats to shore. It’s easier to make conversation now, but harder to touch their ghost. We can sit on the same beach and talk until there’s a story and a problem to solve: How we came to our jobs; how this may be the dark ages for the sinuous gesture; the beautiful things we surrendered to grow up. I work in a store, but used to cry tears the size of a man, while in the nineties, you had those photos of the insides of a TV with what looked like skin growing over the circuits without a thought as to whether this subverts or celebrates the medium. What we cared about was endless love. The light through the blinds, as we ran out of words. Clouds of dust gyrating like the ghosts we wanted. The sun goes down on the palm trees and little motels. You say the ocean at night is like black roses tumbling over each other, wave after wave, and you don’t even know me.

local color

I appreciate how you keep the conversation deceptively simple—the new lazy river, the most unctuous ska band—as if you weren’t transposing my words into a series of slashes and stick figures, like hobo signs on an ancient gate.  This is hard country.   On a clear day, you can see a poem that works like teeth in the sky, devouring trees, electrical towers. It takes more than it gives. It makes us miss the nonfunctional, the things hanging on our walls with subtle grace, the dark porches waiting for us.  What the Oort Cloud is to comets, this town is to defeat: a cluster, but also a place of origin.  The horizon becomes smaller every year.  We resist the interplay of virtue and fortune in favor of some tertium quid: long walks, the rain falling at tight angles, the lights that sputter on like their own indelible republic.  Thank you for a heart that flares in primary colors. Thank you for this golden age.

the underground

I have this work-friend who, when we’re stocking the end-caps, will just drop “But what about the medieval fantasy ahem cautionary tale of Phyllis riding the back of Aristotle,” like she’s hurling a decadent bon mot down the center aisle, when all we really want is to go outside, see the sun and trees again without comparing them to people on TV.  When I finally get some distance on the whole struggle for purity, I’ll probably say this name-dropping counts for nothing unless there’s an animal dream backing up the name, even if it sounds just like the wind.

Justin Lacour lives in New Orleans. His work has appeared or is forthcoming from Natural Bridge, Susan / the Journal, New Orleans Review (Web Features), and B O D Y.

Copyright © 2019 by Justin Lacour, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.