Thursday, March 16, 2017


After Midnight Melancholia IV
“There are only three things to be done with a woman,” said Clea once. “You can love her, you can suffer for her, or you can turn her into literature.” –Lawrence Durrell, Justine

Didn’t you quote Justine once?
Or was it another?
A different you
from a time before or after,
an old friend,
someone I’d seen naked.

I could have imagined it.
I imagine so many things:
faces in leaves,
the courts of insect hierarchies,
legions of ancient mainframe computers
buried in a concrete labyrinth miles beneath the earth
whirring through a sea of breathless data,
calculating a list, checking twice,
The stories between the words,
in the measurement of margins,
in the deep inhalation of breath before the candidate speaks.
Can you imagine?
imagine me
like I imagine you.
Either way,
I think we can both agree
the book was butterflied,
propped open by your bedside,
quick in your hands
like a prop in a play,
something with purpose,
Whose design?
Or someone different?
Someone from before or after.
Someone you’d seen naked.
It’s unlikely it was your mother.
You being older then,
older than you are now,
and living alone,
not a child in someone else’s house.
It’s hard to tell the pears from the pages.
After so many years
and so many cigarettes,
it all begins to taste the same.
There’s only a hazy sense of place,
as if it were all clouds
and I just a child on a hill,
time only where the tether slips
when I reach my hand to pluck another dandelion.
Even so, I think we can agree
Durrell reeks of corpses.
But then, so do you
and I,
and this city,
and the traffic lights
turned by wind and made to spin,
and the cars clicking
their dirty clockwork all night
and the half-naked woman,
eyes blinded in the bus stop enclosure,
pulling her shorts to her ankles,
and turning a circle with her hips,
the men from the liquor store
drawing out their cell phones.
Everyone becoming camera now,
a seething wave of insect eyes
mapping the map,
dressing the bride in her digital gown.
Every ounce of air
full of frantic particles
eager to expel heat.

But why should I blame Durrell—
He’s never done anything to me.
I’ve never even finished one of his books—
or the palm fronds like desiccated wings
gathered around the trunk of the tree,
or Pepsi-Cola,
or Big Oil,
or Charles Babbage,
or anything.
I mean, they’re my eyes after all,
my lungs so full of smoke and coughs,
my bones so brittle and shattered into spines.
I can only drink so much before I get sick.

Besides, I love corpses.
They’re my business.

All this flesh falling away,
I gather it up,
make a kind of origami.
“It’s alive. It’s alive.
It’s five for a dollar.
Everything must go.”
Everything a corpse
until we breathe life.

-- Larry Duncan

Bio: Larry Duncan currently lives in Redondo Beach, CA. His poetry has appeared in Juked, the Mas Tequila Review, Emerge Literary Journal and the Free State Review. He is the author of two chapbooks, Crossroads of Stars and White Lightning and Drunk on Ophelia. To learn more about Larry and his writing, visit at

No comments: