Lauren Caldwell

Applause Issue 32 Label

Half-assed echolalia

heaven might be a hotel bed
with sheets too white
for either of us to think about dead pigeons
or alcoholism
we’ll go downtown
and lower ourselves from the book shelf that holds
every poet whose last name begins with D
da lower
            dr lower
                        until heaven might be sitting here too long
for either of us to think about grey hair or the stranger at the gas station
who showed us the park where he died two weeks ago
but bought us a pack of cigarettes anyway because we were good kids

you think too much about the word echolalia
how God might live in signs scribbled in sidewalk cement
echoed in electric church bulletins far too garishly
for either of us to think about our atheist mothers
or the trembling fist of coincidence
as it beat the Word into our tongues
                        Three times
until we had drifted out of language
and heaven might be floating silently beneath a bridge watching
4th-dimension-Lauren take a step too close
and fall for seven days
Five longer
                        Six longer
long enough to
mold our very own garden out of dust or maybe fall asleep.

Metuchen, New Jersey

I remember the faint taste of sesame
when you lit up a Newport with seeds still in between your teeth.

We caught the train to Metuchen
and you tell me that God is smiling down on us,
a couple of kids and a hubcap with grass growing from the bolts
in this stretch of corner,
you feel holy.

You ask the man, all gums and no teeth,
if he will buy us a pack of smokes.
He shows you his jazz CD—it’s not for sale.
He knows we lied about being from the South
and he’s been sitting here, on this bench.
He’s been sitting here awhile now.

So we slip away to the city.
I’ll show you the pale of my belly
if you reach between my thighs
for the fig seeds,
the fig wasp,
curled away until we hit Connecticut.

I’m leaving now, my love,
with the empty pack of smokes.
The cheese moon grins down at us
with yellow teeth.

I found a cracked kaleidoscope in my desk drawer

Color evaporated, last, about 252 million years ago
when the astral beam kissed the bristled skulls of the two legged
but left those fat fish floating pale
belly up in bone dust.
I hid two orange pills beneath my tongue
to remember what your dinosaur painting looked like
splintered by fractal triangles and prehistoric nostalgia,
tore away from me three months ago
like a stillborn.

In June, I came down with bronchitis.
I rushed through deep drags,
sternum stabs
of a half lit cigarette
depleted in the margins of a yard sale bible.

I’m not a poet anymore,
but I work at the pharmacy.
The puckered people gumming tramadol,
peeking behind the cabinet and
its iron opium curtain,
are mostly born again.
I am mostly a scavenger
of holding
and Jehovah’s witness pamphlets.

I remind myself where I’m going,
The Bible reads that I will levitate.
Instead I’ll descend, crawling, scraping
through all of Bukowski’s leggy femme fatale bullshit
to find a line about apples and oranges rolling away.

Lauren Caldwell is a flat-Earth enthusiast and former child pageant star. In her free time she enjoys wallowing in angst, taking long, leisurely strolls through parking lots and staring directly into the sun. 

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