Must Learn Neither

Lauren Camp

I had plundered past nervous. A tense Walmart truck clanging the interstate. Smoke gnawing the face of some mountain. America, aromaticwith ravages. In schism. Sacrificed. I stayedwoke most nights near the door. Occupied with every handle. Four yearsmy father had gone from corridor to quiver and I mustered my saddleto get to him often. Four years of crinkled conversing.Yes, and ginger. I shivered through roomsof my home in the desert with its stoic astonishmentsand took on some needles. I couldn't settle the ache.The curt country and my family. Every ache size, every shape.To reset, I've come to the distance, to watch the ocean repeathow to unfinish. I brought with me a light jacket and a thick bookabout Agnes Martin. I'm not surewhy I packed it, what it celebrates, but I know the artistand her simple lines against excess. Know she madesacred an emptiness. Maybe I'll hear thin strands of refugeapart from the chaos that circles. What I wantis nothing. No meaning, no matter, no more. I've run awaywith the most fragile questions. Haggardin a small room big enough for a bedwith its modest blanket. I let my watch doze on the sill.Minor details hurtle over grasses. A windribbed fence.The land around me tugs. I don't know it. Fog covers.Blank space consumes me.I figure every day I'll navigate to the tail end of this small townwith its translucent leavings. What I want to figure outis what could be in the neithers. I am enteringa conversation with Agnes for no reason I yet understand. I am not lookingto rivet to her, but to be extractedfrom the sharp cuff of politics, of dementia-tweaked presence, of the gravityof a future that keeps rolling toward me. How do you recoverfrom a decisive wound? A line, a line: it never leaves you.

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Lauren Camp is the author of six books of poetry, most recently An Eye in Each Square (River River Books, 2023). Her honors include a Dorset Prize and finalist citations for the Arab American Book Award, Housatonic Book Award and Adrienne Rich Award for Poetry. Her poems have been translated into Mandarin, Turkish, Spanish, French and Arabic, and have appeared in Kenyon Review, Missouri Review and Poem-a-Day. She is an emeritus fellow for Black Earth Institute and was Astronomer in Residence at Grand Canyon National Park. She currently serves as Poet Laureate of New Mexico.

With the gifts of a visual artist and poet’s attention, An Eye in Each Square confronts our era’s barbed and shifting networks of power and atrocities. Lauren Camp’s sixth collection of poetry offers social critique within an imaginative biography of enigmatic painter Agnes Martin and a treatise on the multiplicities of the natural world. Rendering its landscape in precise imagery and lyrical language, An Eye in Each Square asks the reader to hold the conscience of the world and also to claim what we might need most—the risky and urgent space of comfort found within the artist’s line.

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