Poems: Erika Luckert

Iterations in a wartime studio

How many ways are there
to cast a bull? From wax,
from clay, from plaster
into bronze. Form
then mould, refine
the form, mix nine parts
copper, one part tin
to melt and funnel in
to fill the grave.

A parade of plaster
statues follows
nose to tail through
guarded night
a single file line
of darkness, bronze.
These figures
seek their afterlife:
a bull, a horse, a cat,
a man with lamb,
all stowaways.

Surely I can find
a way to cast the terror
of the muted night,
the shadows armed,
the city molten here.
What else do we have left
to save? So bronze them.

Send each of these dark days
to the foundry: a colander,
two handlebars, a scrap
of corrugated cardboard,
dishcloths and a skull,
the unwanted gas
burner from a stove.

Wrap the pieces up
in plaster, and let
every part be
hollowed, poured.
There’s nothing now
that doesn’t sit
or stand in place
of life. Even the pebbles
engraved before
they’re tossed to sea.



Nearby, the crimson forest
grows taller every year, which is
to say it bleeds for us
and we are grateful.

We return our dead in blankets
to the great wet ground,
and watch them, swaddled,
sink into the soil.

The roots wrap round
our lovers’ bones and we
hold just as tight, our fingers
tendrils, tearing at the ground.

And yes, we dig the graves up
after every thaw to see
that they are there.
For who could trust the earth

to keep what we confide?
There’s too much moisture,
too much darkness, hardly
any air.



Left your books in boxes, left your house behind,
took a car and a tank of gas and let your life

unwind across the prairies, through the foothills,
further still. Surely somebody knew

that you’d stop here to live or die
or pray or in the end pull some part of yourself

out from underneath the polyester blankets.
The tin pan left boiling until empty

on the stove, I’m thinking of it, and the little parcel
of leaves still tucked away because to live

requires sunlight and some bitter remedy.
What a fever when you woke, crushing skull

in the thinner air. You had to wander about
looking for a place to stay alive

because the earth we live on pulls us
so relentlessly down. There are switchback

trails that climb these mountains, trees
that drift through rivers into bone. The cliffs

chisel pieces from the sky and still
I cannot find a face there in the stone.


Sensitive Paper

Nothing is more perfect
than July sun penetrating
all but the nervure. In the first
photograph I took of you
a camera hides your face
its lens filling with colour.
In the second, your hair’s cut
close against the greying sky
transparent as the scariose
membranes of a plant pressed
between panes of glass.
To intercept the light,
wash paper with weak tea
and hold it moist or dip it
into salt and dry it fireside.
If a thumb is breathed on
and placed upon the paper
it leaves a mark.


Erika Luckert is a writer from Edmonton, Canada, and a recipient of the 92Y Discovery Poetry Prize. Her manuscript, “Prepared Ground,” was a finalist for Tupelo’s Berkshire Prize. Her work has appeared in Indiana Review, CALYX, Room Magazine, Measure, Tampa Review, Boston Review, The American Literary Review, and elsewhere. Erika holds an MFA in poetry from Columbia University, and currently lives in New York City, where she teaches creative and critical writing.

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