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Sample Poems by Terry Lucas

The Spell

And he shall separate them one from another,
As a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats.
-Matthew 25: 32b

By age seven, I was smitten
with God, seduced and turned
into one of His sheep. At prayer meetings

I made special requests-
for Brother Valley West's phantom
arm to stop aching, for the doctors

giving Sister Katherine shock treatments
in the asylum to be filled with Holy Ghost
healing power-and the entire congregation

would come around after the benediction,
hugging and kissing me on the mouth,
wanting a taste of the red coal

Brother Swinford said God had touched
to my lips as He had to Isaiah's. It was true,
the spell was good enough for me to preach

my first sermon at eleven, earn an advanced degree
in religion, spend half a lifetime in fumbling
foreplay with God, trying so hard in the dark

to feel some bulge under all those layers, straining
for release from bituminous desire, tongue
glowing just below the flash point

of faith's flame. And later I understood
the white ash in the corners of my mouth, the cooling,
the slake of thirst. But now I really don't know

what to make of that spell, how it entered me
like an abusive shepherd who all along must have known
there would come a day of judgment, and a night before,

when the first tufts of wolf fur showed through the wool.

The Augur's Prayer

-After Ilya Kaminsky

If I speak for God's silence, I must dance
inside the womb of my mother, my tongue

growing inside her, a flaming root
pushing through humus. I must

fill my cheeks with the arid breath
of my father, nurse from his dry breasts.

If I speak for God's silence, I must rest
inside stones that line the path

of His son's triumphal entrance.
I must scatter myself like seed

carried away by wrens, or else feed
like hawks on the flesh of thieves

hanging on Golgotha, stripped
carcasses of men with wings for faces.


I grew up with diesel in my mouth,
aroma of hobo coffee boiling on the stove,
poured into my father's Stanley thermos-
I was addicted by age six, stealing
slurpy sips, testing the temp
before passing the chrome cup
across the doghouse, riding shotgun
in a Freightliner cab-over-my father's eyes
always tending to the road, left
hand on the wheel, the right flicking
twin stick shifts, as he ran
the 250 Cummins through the gears,
before taking a swallow of the steaming brew,
then passing it back and resting his palm on the knob
ticking to the rhythm of the toothed transmission-all one song
that lifted like a carnival ride, then decelerated
with mechanical whine entering town
after facade town, fiction after fiction.


is what will not stop coming through the windows
all day coming through the doors like children
taking turns playing taps on a leaky bugle not knowing
where the tune comes from keeping me
on the other side of the room by the fire writing
these lines about New Mexico about Robin
and Sally and Meredith how long ago
lying beneath Robin the high desert sand
in her fists a plastic syringe or a man
with blond hair or my shoulders as she came on top
crying and Sally strapping on her six-string to teach me
how to play California Dreamin' saying don't be afraid
to change chords before you think you're ready the tracks
on her forearms shifting as she walked up and down
the bass strings or Meredith telling her stories over
beer-talk that blew up from the parking lot how she
drank a twelve-pack tried to beat the train and the night
I lifted her out of her wheelchair we did all we could
on the dance floor how they came to be part of a history a rosary
I need to say I don't know why today it's just the wind
will not stop coming through the windows


-After Larry Levis

I hear it mostly in the deep
guttural tailpipes of Fords & Chevys
revving out of a Friday afternoon
high school parking lot in a small New Mexican desert
town-Sunset Avenue pulsing
like a neck vein that leads to the heart
of downtown, where Main Street pumps cars all night
stop light to stop light between the A&W
and the Tasty-Freeze, engines overheating
then finally boiling over in ice-patched two a.m.
driveways, cooling down with the ticking sounds
of shrinking metal, re-buckling of belts, re-hooking of bras.

I'd like to talk to the boys behind the wheels,
the girls curled up on humps between bucket seats;
I'd like to tell them there is nothing out here
in two thousand sixteen except what they bring with them,
how they should climb out and start packing-
the juniper's needle-leaves, never pressed
between pages of a Bible, the scorpion's breath
exhaled through abdominal stigmata, sand swept
from sagebrush roots, lifted by the twisting fist of a dust devil,
all collecting in luggaged silence-I'd like to tell them

how there will always be enough falling
brimstone, lakes of fire, flaming bushes,
wilted flowers, how there will always be enough gods
to punish them for putting their tongues to the warm clay,
to turn them to salt for glancing back while walking away,
how, when asked "where are you?" "what have you done?"
"who told you that you were naked?" what they will need most
will be to learn to love the questions.

If You Are an Only Child

There will be nights when you say your prayers
and your mother will tell you to stop
asking for a baby brother, and you will
secretly continue to pray, thanking your childhood
God for how lucky you are, not having to share
even the sparks from your hearth, falling
onto your folded hands like the first dirt
crumbling from the shovel over her open grave.

And there will be other nights when you stand alone
beneath the black pupil of the universe, watching it grow
smaller as the flecked glow of the city tightens
its hold on the darkness, and you might hear a distant howl
rising in the blood gathered in your groin, or the silence
in the void between the stars-if you are lucky
you might hear them both as the same prayer
and answer for all that is unborn inside you.