Saturday, October 15, 2011

Robert Laughlin - Four Poems

It was His Livelihood:

A silver tongue, a knack for coaxing men to change their minds and loyalties.
He started out, predictably, by selling cars,
And was, by dollar value, much the biggest seller on the lot.
You came to buy a plain econobox and drove away in something else
That had five hundred horses; he'd convinced you of
The false morality of thrift.
His talent found a greater scope in real estate.
It didn't take him long to prove
To anyone with half a yen to buy a house
That housing values must go up and mortgage rates go down.
Negotiation pays the highest wage,
And many was the time he took a hefty fee
For showing prosecutors what a risk it was to their careers
To charge a guilty person by the book,
Or talking union members into thinking half a loaf was much too much.
Of course, he ended up in politics.
He got an honest congressman's constituents to give the man
An unexpected honor: a gold watch.
Once in, he held his seat for thirty years.
His rousing speeches, written by himself,
His numerous alliances, discarded when their usefulness was past,
His principles, which always had an exit door behind a tapestry,
Did nothing for the nation--but
The pork his gift of gab steered home and NIMBY items steered away
Ensured that, each November in an even-numbered year,
His necessary friends were never less than fifty per, plus one.

It was his livelihood:
A phrase that's relevant to those who aren't dead.
And now he's in a cancer ward,
Unable to get up and knowing that his silver tongue
That made so many temporary friends
Is powerless to stop the clock beside his bed,
To stop the process that converts, with each inexorable tick,
One pancreatic cell from loyal friend to lethal enemy.

Problem Solved

Make a device that lets one see
An unborn infant's destiny,
And in no time, you'll solve the nation's
Problem of swelling populations.


In Washington,
the maxim that your dog's your only friend is all too true.

In Tinseltown,
your dog cares more about designer collars and the poodles on the beach than you.

Rodia that Hugs the Ground, It Is

Rodia that hugs the ground, it is
my third week on the new postal route
today I meet the people at stop forty-one
they've got a package that won't fit into their box
I know it won't--I measured it before mailing it to them
a plain one-story stucco house
they landscaped their front yard with castoff items, and it's simply gorgeous
upthrusting multicolored vinyl plates border the lawn
flagstones to the front door are pink and blue terrazzo from some old office building
discarded wickets were bent and fused to sculpt a howling watchdog
five kinds of flowers poke up through the mouths of half-buried bottles
a wrought-iron fence spike and triangle of sheet steel, painted in warm colors, do
duty as a perfectly functional weathervane
the turf is crushed taillight covers mixed with shredded glow-in-the-dark Frisbees
you wouldn't believe how everything looked when I drove by after dark
this neighborhood has poor drainage
a rivulet runs across their front yard when it rains, so they made it a seasonal creek
dug out a channel and lined it with tumbled lumps of roadbed
at the broadest point, there's a waterwheel: two bicycle wheels with split Clorox
bottles between them
the junk garden is fairly new
climbing ivy in the planters hasn't gotten far up the driftwood trellises and bower
whenever the owners tend their plants, it's not when I deliver, and I haven't seen
them yet
but now I see a car in their carport
and I know the houses on this block have big back yards
when I hand-deliver the package, that's when I'll ask to see what they've done in back

Robert Laughlin lives in Chico, California. His poems have appeared in Bryant Literary Review, Camroc Press Review, elimae, The Orange Room Review and Pearl. His website is at

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