Charles G Lauder Jr
© Julian Lauder-Mander
Charles G Lauder Jr was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. Having lived on both coasts of America and graduated from Boston University, he moved to Leicestershire in the UK where he lives with his wife and two children. His poems have been published widely – in print, and online. From 2014 to 2018, he was Assistant Editor for The Interpreter’s House; and for over twenty years, he's copyedited academic books on literature, history, medicine and science. Charles' two pamphlets are Bleeds and Camouflaged Beasts. His debut collection is The Aesthetics of Breath.
The Color of Mourning
The colour of morning in a San Diego autumn:
you displaced here twelve years note
sunlight’s silent taint and fade trees stained
not with the blood of a slain midsummer god
but with the knick of his finger.
Dressed in the hues of fallen leaves you fill
kitchen corners with apples and acorns
corn husks and pine cones brew cauldrons
of thick chowder and beer dropping hints
that August has outstayed its welcome.
This is the time of spiders gossamer-veiled
doorways thresholds scorched by the shadow
of scarred tattooed pumpkins eyes spooned out
in grief over summer’s supposed passing.
From here you scry distant clouds of smoke:
seasonal wildfires fuelled by desert sage
and dried brush that will touch many hands
before put out like the sparklers once waved
around a bonfire as if casting a spell lights
danced off your fingers before extinguishing.
The Pissing Contest
Little boys with their penises in hand
gathered about a porcelain trough,
the drain a silver dome,
when all they know of politics
is what they overhear their parents declare,
so though they know nothing of Watergate
and eighteen minutes of missing tape,
nor of Ehrlichman and Hunt, Mitchell and Dean,
they know ‘Nixon’, with its hard ‘ks’ lump,
and Congressional hearings, the long, droning table of men
in a dark wooden-panelled room
and the high smack of a gavel,
broadcast on all three TV channels,
stealing away afternoon cartoons
and Mother’s soaps for weeks on end,
they stand there, penises grasped in little hands,
following the biggest boy’s lead
and aim their streams at the silver dome drain:
Look at me! I’m peeing on the Capitol!
Only a few of the arched golden flows
have the strength to splatter against the dome,
burst through its holes like a water cannon
against windows, offices and corridors flood
with desks and sofas floating away in the foam,
interns and PAs swim to get clear.
It doesn’t matter if they really meant
the White House, or Congress,
or Washington in general,
this is for Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck,
and, if their mothers were here,
The Guiding Light and As the World Turns,
little boys peeing until penises run dry
and the pee drains away,
leaving a stink and a stain,
the little boys are proud of their new game,
as penises are waved and shook, then tucked away.
This before the days of separate urinals,
like older brothers and fathers already use,
where they’ll stand, distracted by size,
and brag to one another that the water is cold,
and the biggest boy will reply, And deep too.
Bellying up to the night in neighborhoods
as dark as the street corners of my mind
I meet him fully for the first time,
lucid, bug-eyed manic but not ugly,
his frightened grasp handcuffed to my wrist
as he circles, circles about me
like wagons on the open, empty plains.
What folk birthed and nurtured him,
caged him, then set him free
with few words in the ear as guidance?
Like a cousin, or brother, last seen as a child
—he’s not a stranger, but he is.
Back home, thieves have broken in
and he breathes their air, the money
they stole, the television they broke,
the window they crawled through,
the colorful oxygen of their skin.
Like a dead grandfather or drunk uncle
at Christmas he collapses on the sofa
mumbling like a ventriloquist,
lending me his tremulous voice,
his pinched nose and clouded sight.
Rubbish spilling from his pockets
is quickly brushed under the carpet.