Photo by Genessa Panainte on Unsplash

Collection of Poems by Luanne Castle

Laughing Babies

In seventh grade I was sent
to the principal’s office six times for laughing,
my giggles chronic hiccups
that rode the curb like a skateboard
until I wanted to bail from fear of the crash.
I held on, never jumped.

Have you heard the commercial
with the laughing baby?
Not a smiling infant, slippery pink gums
peeking from behind the O
of the open baby mouth,
not tentative giggles
searching out questions for the world.
But a big baby guffaw, a Mississippi of sound
catching me in the solar plexus
where my own laugh begins.

We’re hardwired for this hidden language,
more powerful than books
or paintings.
We laugh together
and at nothing at all.


First published in The Black Boot, Fall, 2010


Supernova

After the fires came mudstorms
bulldozing bodies into the mix.
Weeks spent crumpling like dying stars,
families’ children into science,
into candlelit commiseration.
Pressure builds in a cauldron
with boiling tar, the three virtues tied
to a wheel and beaten with rods.
Small skulls of infants and bonobos
commix in the pasteurized fields.
These offerings burst into flame
larger than Santorini.
Rebuilding over brick, concrete, bones.
And the moon moves farther from us.


First published in Lyric Poetry Contest, March, 2004


A Bone Elegy

Waves jostled the wooden rowboat
tied to the dock, the damp seat
of my shorts chilled me.
I pressed my heels into the wet sand.
My bare legs before me seemed
to belong to a young crane, toes sticking up like cut bait.
Leah’s smaller egret legs mimicked mine.
The wind stirring up
the waves
goosebumped my arms
until my mother called us in to dinner.

**

This bone is the navicular bone,
the surgeon indicates the center
of the human foot
with his Mont Blanc.
A small bone, the ballast
the others radiate from.
It gets its name from its resemblance
to a small boat.
It’s not possible to float the human body on land.
Now the boat is only moored port side,
the other connection to the
framework of the foot eaten away,
the small craft has been hollowed
by the ravenous tumor which fills it
with its own cells.

**

Many wooden boats later,
I paddled and glided on
the dark green water,
searching for Leah of my childhood lake.
Was it many many years ago or just
yesterday when my mother phoned,
her voice a clothesline
heavy with soggy laundry.

**

The surgeon cuts from my iliac crest
a bobber-sized piece to stop
up the loss above my arch.

**

Leah and I caught bullfrogs in the marshland,
stranded our little brothers on the raft across the lake.
The three of us were intimate
as guppies: Leah, Luanne, the lake.
The lake itself is called Three-Lakes-in-One.
We dived off the Sunfish,
our hair behind us like swampgrass
as we rose out of the lake,
sharp as scalpels.

**

What repair can be made now?
Bones live for centuries, lasting past cities and heartbeats,
supporting the earth.
I imagine Leah’s bones in a plot
in rural Illinois. Lasting past
Chicago, DeKalb, Kalamazoo. Far from any lake
or my patched rowboat.


First published in South Florida Arts, May, 2013


Sharing Notes about Our Fifth Grade Field Trip

This afternoon we sit, husband
and wife, your hand

on mine around the globe
of my wineglass, me in my robe.

I’m thinking how we were marched
into that museum past charts

of human development.
Mesmerized with the sediment

of memory, what we found therein.
Glass jars of formalin

we inspected with masks of indifference
or disgust. In silence.

We could have dealt with slimy organs,
skeletons shattered by shot guns.

But what we got were human embryos
juxtaposed

by gestational age. Week four
looked like a shrimp, more

marine-like than mammal.
Week eight an ancient animal.

Our imaginations grew
with the size of the specimen. We knew

we couldn’t stay inside.
We cast aside

the screaming we thought we heard.
Our young teacher herded

us out behind the Dead Baby Museum.
That mausoleum.

You tell me it was not that,
but a museum of natural history, a vast

collection of butterflies and snakeskins,
dinosaur bones and fossilized fins.

I see their clear flesh coiled like moonshells.
Hefting my glass, I swill

and peer down into the dark red dregs
so like the stain on the inside of my legs,

the stain I refuse to scrub, or thighs to cleanse,
as if it had never happened.

Your knees touch mine,
then you reach for the bottle of wine.


First published in South Florida Arts, May, 2013


Luanne Castle’s Kin Types (Finishing Line Press), a chapbook of poetry and flash nonfiction, was a finalist for the 2018 Eric Hoffer Award. Her first poetry collection, Doll God, winner of the 2015 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award, was published by Aldrich Press. A Pushcart nominee, she studied at the University of California, Riverside (PhD); Western Michigan University (MFA); and Stanford University. Her writing has appeared in Copper Nickel, TAB, The American Journal of Poetry, Verse Daily, Lunch Ticket, Grist, River Teeth, and other journals.