Vila Franca de Xira, May 8, 1994

Lauren Goodwin Slaughter

After the photograph by Rineke Dijkstra, from her series of portraits of los
forcados. ln the final event of a Portuguese bullfight, young men known as los
forcados use their bodies to exhaust and subdue the bull in a kind of dance
called pega de caras.

It was me or the bullas it always is. The bullwith his brute-breathand steam, fear that smellsof a father's knowinghis smaller son can take himand will. Offer to bowto the beast. Offer the dreamsin your skull, the Praiade Benagil sunlight flaringthrough a hole. Time is a boyI can almost reach—a kite flown, the blue-tiled floorof my faraway motherstampeded with footprints.I came here for the questionanswered by the crowd'sovation: a man now, mustI have blood on my faceto be seen.

Feature Date


Selected By

Share This Poem

Print This Poem

Image of Lauren Goodwin Slaughter

Lauren Goodwin Slaughter, the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, is author of the poetry collections, Spectacle (2022) and a lesson in smallness (2015). Her poems, essays, and short stories appear in Image, Harvard Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Pleiades, and 32 Poems, among many other places. She is an associate 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. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama with her husband and three children.

Pensacola, Florida

University of West Florida

"I love the poems in Spectacle by Lauren Slaughter. For the work they do and the speed they move and the light they shine. I love the world these poems make and so I love this awful world a little better, and I think that’s the sort of radical empathy that poems create: they enliven, they sing, they see. Slaughter writes at one point of 'this elegant dark theory, / the starry hunger' and I can’t think of a better, truer invocation of love and life and the spells that hold us between them. Go read this book now."
— Paul Guest, author of Because Everything Is Terrible

"Spectacle starts with the eye—the dead moth’s eyespot, the photographer’s eye behind the lens, the anxious eye of the mother watching through a door, who tries, impossibly, to translate the 'ghost forest' of grief through which her children must move. But what’s so powerful about Lauren Slaughter’s poems is how the lens widens: 'the throb of knowing, always, / what comes next—' poetry’s urgent power to improve our collective vision, to help us see the larger, fraught family of our humanity and its shared losses. Knowing deeply the invisibility that comes with motherhood, womanhood, and otherhood of many kinds, Slaughter refuses to let the edges of her poems’ sight blur, and, in the space beyond ekphrasis, where real life is captured, she 'reach[es] / for some / right word.' I, as her ardent reader, am better for it."
— Jenny Molberg, author of Refusal

"Threaded throughout this stunning collection are ekphrastic poems responding to Rineke Dijkstra’s photographs. And like Dijkstra, Lauren Slaughter is concerned with what appearances try to conceal—the complicated emotions that lurk around everyday activities from celebrating an aging parent’s birthday to navigating a store’s clothing rack. Moving seamlessly between moments of quiet joy and sudden heartache, these finely chiseled poems rise from the page to provide comfort with their vulnerability, lyrical surprise, and wisdom. If there was ever a book that spoke to this era, it is this one."
— Charlotte Pence, author of Code

Poetry Daily Depends on You

With your support, we make reading the best contemporary poetry a treasured daily experience. Consider a contribution today.