Gregory Luce

From Anxiety Journal—Spring 2015

(for John Huey, with profound gratitude)

“The mind is the cause of our distresses
      but of it we can build anew.”—William Carlos Williams


Write your way
out of it my friend said.
Can a ball-point pen
cut through the mist nets
of dread that entangle
the heart and lungs
and tighten around
the temples?
Stand as a lightning rod
for the fevered currents that pulsate
along the nerves at four a.m.?
Provide the spark
that kickstarts paralyzed desire?
Will ink on paper
re-water the streams
where joy once flowed?


Churchill’s black dog
weighted his bed mornings,
rode his back for hours.
My caramel cat jumps
on and off the bed, noses
every box, rubs against
every piece of furniture,
cruises the windowsill
all through the dark hours
after midnight.


“The Soul has Bandaged moments -
When too appalled to stir -
She feels some ghastly Fright come up
And stop to look at her -“—Emily Dickinson

When the net falls again
at 5 a.m. and wraps
the body tight at first,
then prickles over the skin
like a loose bandage
over a bloodless wound.


Living with nerve ends
a little too close
to the surface:
They vibrate
like steel strings
strummed with a razorblade.


Tremor makes a partial rhyme
with memory. Text from
my sister: My great-aunt
died this morning.
Relief and grief make
a full rhyme.


A rare morning of equilibrium:
In a sunlit café
I look down 14th St.
in giant red letters beckons
from the top of a building
but I’m not ready
to leave my seat
on the ground.


Breaking the surface
after almost drowning,
gulping air at first,
then easing into steady
rhythm of breath:
Shake the water
out of your hair,
float for a while.


To S on Her Returning Home

I. “The tulips are too excitable. It is winter here.
Look how white everything is, how quiet, how snowed in.”
            —Sylvia Plath

First the unmarked snow, smooth, pure
under the low sky, then imprints, tracks,
drifts of leaves and paper, then the hard edges,
sharp ashy ridges crusted with dirt.
But finally a trickle of sun and then more
sun, flows of water, and patches of grass
astonishingly green.

II. “The soul has bandaged moments.”
                  —Emily Dickinson

The itch and sting, painful rustle, stick
and prickle, each breath measured out
like medicine, counted like gold coins
one on top of the other. The pain,
my surgeon said, that’s the healing.

III. “The water I taste is warm and salt, like the sea,
And comes from a country as far away as health.”
            —Sylvia Plath

Not for drinking but good for floating
until the strength to swim returns.
That country is on the far shore,
remote but attainable.