Amy Lawless is the author of two books of poems including My Dead (Octopus Books). Her third poetry collection Broadax is forthcoming in the fall from Octopus Books. A chapbook A Woman Alone is just out from Sixth Finch Books. With Chris Cheney she is the author of the hybrid book I Cry: The Desire to Be Rejected from Pioneer Works Press’ Groundworks Series (2016). Poems have been anthologized in Best American Poetry 2013, Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day: 365 Poems for Every Occasion, and the Brooklyn Poets Anthology (Brooklyn Arts Press). Poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in The Volta, Washington Square Review, Bennington Review, jubilat, The Inquisitive Eater, and elsewhere. She received a poetry fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts in 2011. She lives in Brooklyn.
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How do you find your life in the fucked up world? In her essay “The Death of the Moth,” Annie Dillard writes “you can’t be anything else. You must go at your life with a broadax.” In her Broadax, Amy Lawless goes at her life in attempt to understand the pain, to understand how to live in this fucked up world. Broadax begins in the guileless moments of the poet’s childhood and constellates outward, only to return to the same life through adult eyes. After absorbing intimacies in time spent with youth, friends, family, and lovers, witnessing violences like the Oklahoma City bombing in the media, Lawless reflects her sense with the help of The Incredible Hulk, Prince, Žižek, Mishima, and especially her family. When you stub your toe, there is only one word that does the trick. That word is lens, shell, and salve.
WITH A FORCE MORE BRUTAL
I eat alone.
Fuck through it all
using my own hands.
Adjustments can lead to personal maturity and evolution.
Lots of food falls out of our hands
and I wonder
whether I have a disease or if I’m dying.
Or why that piece of food—why now?
The food is eaten or is eventually thrown away
or swept into the dust pan.
I close the trash bag
by pulling a red string
strangling its neck
with a force more brutal than I realized I had the capacity for.
But it happens so fast.
Would I have the
same brutality were I being
if you tried fucking me
against the wall against my will.
It’s funny because I find you attractive, though totally dorky,
and what a strange turn of events – a date rape and murder.
I keep thinking about
cutting holes into walls,
so we can look
at what’s real
what’s just a monkey
scratching its asshole.