Touch Wood/ poem by Ann Lauinger

The near-sighted relax at night 
thinking, now everybody’s just like me, 
forced to hazard the known.

Inquiry shines on, but torques its beam 
to throw freakish shadows 
on the turret walls. It wants to know
who was making all those inquiries 
all day long.

Bumping along north of Ulan Bator
on the back of a woolly mammoth,
you’ve nothing to fear in this dark—
touch wood. Touch fossilized wood 
from Ellesmere Island, transformed 

by the salts of marine transgression. 
Touch ivory that grew in a dream’s meander,
spiral tusks like feelers 
testing directions: apart, up, 
tip toward tip at last. Grip what you can

of those mirror crescent moons.
The mammoth is wading into a cold sea,
making for the far shore. 


Ann Lauinger’s newest book of poems, Dime Saint, Nickel Devil, is forthcoming from Broadstone Books; her two other books are Against Butterflies (Little Red Tree Publishing, 2013) and Persuasions of Fall (University of Utah Press, 2004), which won the Agha Shahid Ali Prize in Poetry. Poems and translations have appeared in publications including The Cumberland River Review, Georgia Review, Massachusetts Review, Parnassus, Plant-Human Quarterly, The Southern Poetry Review, and Valley Voices, as well as on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and Martha Stewart Living Radio. She is a member of the Slapering Hol Press Advisory Committee and a professor emerita of literature at Sarah Lawrence College, who lives along the Hudson River in Ossining, NY.


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