"Nick Lantz writes with elegant simplicity. Most poets take a lifetime to learn as much." Linda Gregerson
I say I love and I love and I love. However, the window will not close. However, the hawk searches for its nest after a storm. However, the discarded nail longs to hide its nakedness inside the tire.
from "Fork with Two Tines Pushed Together"
How to Dance as the Roof Caves In examines America as it faces a recession of collective mood and collective wealth. In a central sequence, the "housing bubble" reaches its bursting point when, with hilarious and biting outcomes, real estate developers hire a married couple and other down-and-out "extras" to stage a fake community to lure prospective investors. In these marvelous poems, Nick Lantz describes the changing American landscape with great imagination and sharp wit.
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.40(d)|
About the Author
Nick Lantz is the author of two previous poetry books, We Don't Know We Don't Know and The Lightning That Strikes the Neighbors' House. He teaches at Sam Houston State University and lives in Texas.
Read an Excerpt
How to Dance as the Roof Caves In
By Nick Lantz
GRAYWOLF PRESSCopyright © 2014 Nick Lantz
All rights reserved.
Conversation in Which Neither of Us Speaks
OK, yes, I'm in love
with the sentence, the dependent
clause like a pale toe sticking out
from under a blanket. That toe,
your toe, has more to say
about the universe
than I could in a lifetime
of poems. To say you
are under the blanket
is insufficient. What
could be sufficient? The official
kilogram, a platinum-iridium cylinder
stored in a vault in France, has lost
of a fingerprint, and what
looks like an hour
can chew off my tongue.
Whole lives go mute
in the waiting room, the voice
eroded by fluorescent
light and antiseptic.
cannot bring themselves
they say relative change.
They say, a discrepancy
of mass, and when I was
cleaning out your old office,
I found a sheet of paper
from where you'd tried
and tried to revive
an inkless pen. Now the rain
interrogates the roof,
and the house's gutters
spill their guts, confessing
each refugee leaf
they've sheltered since winter, and already
I'm telling lies
because all I'm left with
is this sentence
that I love.
How to Travel Alone
The same painting is hanging on all four walls
of my hotel room: Ship at sea.
Ship at sea.
Ship at sea. Ship at sea.
An empty bed won't say
I love you
until its jaw falls off. The rain believes
the earth exists
just to give it something
to fall against. What can I do
from my dingy little room but close
the blinds and turn up the TV?
Some days I come out wrinkled like a jacket
exhumed from a suitcase. Some days
I'm as constant as the last soggy corn flake
at the bottom of a bowl of milk,
that piece that keeps giving
the spoon the slip. I'm that ship that can't
find shore, can't be sunk.
Just days without you and I've got
that midnight streetlight tan,
that Big Chug Jug caffeine carelessness, that one loose
toll booth tooth, these highway hiccups.
The wooden benches in the train station
remind me of the pews in the clapboard church
where my cousins are still swaying
with the holy spirit. Oh, ship at sea, they sing, you are
my ark, my raft.
But where is the cross, the portrait of Jesus knocking
on the inn door? All we have is the schedule board,
numbers and letters, the clock that chimes and chimes.
As pigeons descend to devour
a dropped sandwich,
the station agent's voice echoes over
the PA speakers: Here is my ham on rye, with whom
I am well pleased.
I write postcards I don't
send. Each one
is a confession.
I eat microwaved cheeseburgers until my stomach
rocks and pitches like a ship at sea.
Your voice on this cell phone is a bug
trapped in a jar. Your voice on this phone
is a sliver under my fingernail.
How many nights will you be staying with us?
Here is your key card. Here is a brochure
to help you interpret the stains
on the ceiling tile, to augur the roaches
and broken glass. Do not be alarmed if you hear
a shout, a trumpet. The high school band
tournament is this weekend.
Your signal faded. Your call dropped.
I can't find my reservation number.
Your voice on this phone is like a ship at
Never mind, I found it.
Meanwhile, the greasy clouds go sliding around
on the sky
like gray eggs in a skillet. Meanwhile,
the laundromat beauty queens
in their wash-day sweatsuits thumb quarter
after quarter into the machines
and pray for miracles. Meanwhile, a shut-in dies buried
under a collection
of snow globes of Paris, where tiny couples walk
up and down the Champs-Élysées in endless winter.
A stranger in mirrored shades says Take off
your shoes, take off your jacket.
I do, I do. I unthread my belt in one long pull
that whispers it from its loops.
Will a skycap please bring a wheelchair to Gate 7B?
Jennifer H_____, please call your sister
in North Carolina. Roger M_____, Roger M_____,
please return to the security checkpoint
to retrieve a lost item.
Board by zone number. Sit in the wrong seat
just to meet a stranger, to apologize, to say
My mistake. You're breaking up. If the engines fail, don't worry:
on our cell phones, we'll watch
live footage of our plane fireballing
into the ocean, our own
bodies bobbing in the wreckage and surf.
Look, that's us waving.
I write postcards I don't send. They all start
Dear ship at sea ...
When I stop to throw
them into a dumpster, I glance down
into that darkness and see the continent where I was born, as if
from space, its cities lit
like clustered stars.
There are only two directions in the map
of my life: the way to you, and the way
Fork with Two Tines Pushed Together
It's fast and cool as running water, the way we forget
the names of friends with whom we talked and talked
the long drives up and down the coast.
I say I love and I love and I love. However, the window
will not close. However, the hawk searches
for its nest after a storm. However, the discarded
nail longs to hide its nakedness inside the tire.
Somewhere in Cleveland or Tempe, a pillow
still smells like M_____'s hair.
In a bus station, a child is staring
at L____'s rabbit tattoo. I've bartered everything
to keep from doing my soul's paperwork.
Here is a partial list of artifacts:
mirror, belt, half-finished 1040 form (married, filing jointly), mateless walkie-talkie, two blonde eyelashes, set of acrylic paints with all the red and yellow used up, buck knife, dog collar, camping tent (sleeps two), slivers of cut-up credit cards, ashtray in the shape of a naked woman, pen with teeth marks, bottom half of two-piece bathing suit, pill bottles containing unfinished courses of antibiotics, bank statements with the account number blacked out, maps of London, maps of Dubuque, sweatshirts with the mascots of colleges I didn't attend, flash cards for Spanish verbs (querer, perder, olvidar), Canadian pocket change, fork with two tines pushed together.
One night, riding the train home from the city,
will I see a familiar face across from me? How many times
will I ask Is it you? before I realize
it's my own reflection in the window?
Forgetfulness means to be full
of forgetting, a glass
overflowing with cool water, though I'd always
thought of it as the empty pocket
where the hand finds
nothing: no keys, no ticket, no change.
After the Lightning Strikes, Count
It is the window you sit by that scrawls
the exact shape of your longing on you. Love is all
of a lightning bolt haunting the retina,
headlights swarming you
as you walk the shoulder of the highway
between your house and hers.
The imprint of your jacket,
the seam of chest and arm, jagged in her cheek.
Change the window,
and you forget the deliberations
of hawks and rabbits, the soft elbow of road
that showed through the trees. Now all you care for
is the retarded teenager in a green smock
sweeping the sidewalk outside the corner market,
how he appears
on the hour, a bird emerging
from a cuckoo clock.
Three years later, another window, and now
you sit to watch the tide's
retreat, men in waders
digging clams, the sound of their shovels biting mud
drifting up to you across the bay.
When you close your eyes, you see her,
a pale carp surfacing in a murky pond.
What do you call the flinty part of you that misses
winter, which here is only rain?
Every morning the bed sheets are curled in imitation
of the body
that has left them behind.
The clouds tick by like beads on an abacus.
The halyard keens and keens against the flagpole.
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Suffering from low self-esteme?
Wish you looked like Appolo in bed?
Like a pocket elephant in your pants
Your trunk has shrunk?
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Join millions who have achieved their size
Don't suffer in silence in the bedroom
Touch your ladys soul
Drive her insane with pleasure
Lay her out and take what you want
Make all girls heat
Four lenders want to talk to you
No girl can be a dead fish after this
Are you ready for us?
5. Trying to reach you one last time
Its time to increase your head
Climb the corporate ladder now
Insert more health into your life
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Bags ... cheap
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The principle of traction
Advantages of micro-vacuum pumping
A gentlemen is jugded by his size
URGENT message re: your 401k
Your internet access is going to get suspended
Your health care will be terminated
Your checking account will be closed
Which lender will you choose?
Your wife need your attention?
Want to have fantastic nights?
Its me. Is it you?
How to Help a Ghost
Some days I leave the grocery store and walk
all the way to the door
of our old house without thinking. Even the strange
dog waiting at the window seems to recognize me
as I stop just short
of trying my key at the lock.
You were a thread of cobweb I breathed in and couldn't
swallow, couldn't cough up. All our boxed-up letters
can't fathom the indifference
of the garbage truck, hoisting
the cans like an aging bodybuilder.
Hell is a country where it rains year round
and you must spend all day writing postcards
to relatives you don't love. Today, you write,
And wasn't it the rain that caught you
rushing between buildings, someone else's jacket
on your back, face turned
away, as if to avoid a camera? I wasn't
there to see it, but I imagine all the things
you never told me as a line of footprints
dried into the concrete.
My mistakes are throwing
bunches of roses at me, cheering
for an encore. So here is my aria: a dirt
road, seven beers, the headlights
off. Enough of this.
Some day, one of the dark shapes wandering
across the frozen lake will turn out
to be you. I can already hear you at the door
shaking the frost
off your boots.
Hawk and Rabbit
A hawk nested on the roof of your building,
and for six years every
poem you wrote, every kiss you gave
your wife, was a rabbit that either escaped
into the hedges or died in the air.
Millipedes are born and die by the thousands
on the laundry room floor and never dream
of the moon. The book's spine is broken
out of love. The trumpet sings
with borrowed lungs.
You could try bending the mended wheel, weeping
tears of milk. Jesus won't appear twirling
a sword like a baton.
To wit, the overturned garbage can,
locks of hair swept
across the barber's floor, the crow whose head
swivels like a closed-circuit camera.
The bus-stop shaman claims man has not one
soul but many. A soul
for drinking wine. A soul for kissing,
for laughing. A soul for taking out
the garbage. A soul for peeling apples
at the sink, for losing
utility bills. A soul for writing checks.
A soul for doing
nothing. A soul for sucking a blackberry-stained finger
until the stain is gone.
Carbon from all of the burned books is born again
in the mustaches of generals and the long ears
of rabbits. If you can hear
the tremor of the neighbors' daughter
practicing her violin, count
yourself lucky. The world's oldest
musical instrument is a flute carved
from a vulture's leg bone.
Though it is more correct not to say oldest
but oldest surviving.
Can you imagine: those lips? that throat? that music?
You see a truck with "James Tate Plumbing"
stenciled on its side panel, and you imagine
the eponymous plumber
elbow deep in a drain, coming up not with a fist
of hair but snow globes of Pompeii, the jawbone
of an ass, the endless red ribbon
of a rabbit's intestine, the half-darkness
of our bedroom when
the shades are drawn.
Excerpted from How to Dance as the Roof Caves In by Nick Lantz. Copyright © 2014 Nick Lantz. Excerpted by permission of GRAYWOLF PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Conversation in Which Neither of Us Speaks 3
How to Travel Alone 5
Fork with Two Tines Pushed Together 9
After the Lightning Strikes, Count 11
Re: 5 ways to enhance your love more passinnate 13
How to Help a Ghost 16
Hawk and Rabbit 18
How to Tour the Historic Battlefield 21
To Paint Lightning 26
On the Lake Path at Night You Look 28
How to Stage a Community 31
How to Appreciate Inorganic Matter 59
Four Reasons You Don't Write the Letter 61
How to Dance When You Do Not Know How to Dance 66
After Seeing a 400-Year-Old Basket in the Museum of Natural History 68
How to Properly Fold and Insert a Letter into an Envelope 69
After You Taped Your Chest X-Ray to the Window 71
How to Forgive a Promise Breaker 73
The Chisel 74
Ways of Beginning 78