Poem of the Week: Lauren Goodwin Slaughter

Lauren Goodwin Slaughter




It was a moth. It resembled a torn piece

of newsprint caught inside the fixed window


in the filthy stairwell of our first apartment.

What could live in such a place, I’d wonder,


passing the moth on my way down to work

at the new teaching gig, outfit in blouse and slacks


my mother’s words—that did not stretch.

What could live in a world of hair-web glass,


with black and blackening stuck leaves?

Of course, the moth was dead. Still,


down the flights for prenatal aerobics, or to see

another matinee alone I’d think, What could?


The stairs grew thick with grime and dust.

A ball of something seemed to grow itself.


I starved no matter what and woke each night

to smear globs of Peter Pan on anything


we had. There was no air for me that August.

Yet, this pear to avocado to gourd-big boy became.


I pressed against the pane. This moth has legs,

I finally saw, skinny, with joints, and furred,


like those pussy willows I once named

and rubbed against my cheek at grandma’s house.


And the creature’s wings were more than paper, after all—

spun and flying-full and, somehow, real.


There that thing sat, for years. The baby charged

into a boy. Then, his worrying began.


Plonking past it on our way to school—

his jumbo pack tush-thwacking—or to the store


for milk, my son fret to the isolate of tears

pleading for me to free the moth. It’s scared, Mama,


Mama, do something. Oh, that little guy’s fine,

I tried, Love, see, he’s only sleeping—do you know


the word, nocturnal? He did, and didn’t buy it.

He wants out, my son persist. Still, I could not


form those words. His dog, his bed, his sister—

my moth misses the clouds, he drummed.


I kept, it’s dead, until dead seemed the best,

most agreeable option. Is this failing


somehow, my success? Willow tree

sways of quiet next. Seesaw simple


breath. We came and went and, for months,

hardly looked at all. Shape meant shape


meant shape. Even the radio seemed safe.

The darkest clearing


yields the brightest stars. My son knew this

of the universe. This is what I taught him.


Then came the first-grade field trip

to Samford Planetarium. Circles black


with circles, tiers of disbelieving kids.

The sun—the sun will die, Mom?—


as he sprint off the bus, up the stairs

and to me, spilling Luna the Lion,


snack-fish confetti and all those cheerful

illustrations of smiling stock houses


puffing smiling white smoke. Oh, Sweetheart,

not die (did I try to chuckle?). Again, not die,


exactly. You see, the sun is not really alive

in the way we understand. More, the sun


will cease to burn. More, this gorgeous

heat this love just morphs to ice and fails


and falls, its glimmering tail sweeping                                   

the impossible, brief shock of us—


our morning cuddle, your sleep-stale hair

beside me. Don’t fear, it is more like that.


It’s like that window painted shut that was never ours

to open. This isn’t even our apartment.


Suddenly: nothing

or—a sound—one name—goes loose


in the place—then, music names on air

from the kitchen:


Amanda Alvear; Oscar Arancena-Montero


in that verified sober newscaster voice,

too careful to annunciate


Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala


the throb of knowing, always knowing

what’s coming next—


Antonio Davon Brown

Angel Candelario-Padro



_LGS0260(2)Lauren Goodwin Slaughter is the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, and a Walter E. Dakin Fellowship from Sewanee Writers’ Conference. She is the author of the poetry collection, a lesson in smallness, which was a finalist for the Rousseau Prize for Literature. Her poems have recently appeared in 32 Poems,Sugar House Review, Nashville Review, and Kenyon Review Online. She is an assistant professor of English at The University of Alabama at Birmingham where she is also Editor-in-Chief of NELLE, a literary journal that publishes writing by women.

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