three poems by Laurie Saurborn

Laurie Saurborn

Laurie Saurborn

Laurie Saurborn is the author of two poetry collections, Industry of Brief Distraction (Saturnalia Books, 2015) and Carnavoria (Hangman Books, 2012), and a chapbook, Patriot (Forklift, OH, 2013). An NEA Creative Writing Fellowship recipient, her writing and photography have appeared in Rkvry Quarterly, The Cincinnati Review, The Southern Review, The Rumpus, Tupelo Quarterly, and elsewhere. She has worked as a psychiatric RN and taught creative writing at UT Austin. Currently she serves as Book Reviews Editor for The Night Heron Barks. In May she graduates with an MS in Nursing and begins work as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.

Rough Country

Day I bring an Osage orange
to detox there’s no hook

to hang a towel so I
hold it while he shaves,

his friend on the patient
phone, aiming for a ride

down to Portsmouth. East-
bent, the windows

fill with prints of human
skin: palm, cheek, forehead—

want, needing through
glass, blinds caught

inside the panes.
Outside, the sycamore

leaves dry in the sun,
the Bob Evans

advertises curb-side
service, my car waits

to be driven away.
Knuckles inked as if each

year cannot bear to pass
unmarked, he taps

his razor on the sink,
my cue to turn

& scan the floor for blood.
No answer to the call,

the receiver landing
harder every time. Another

line forms at the med
window for lozenges,

Motrin, clonidine, Bentyl:
anything to make waiting

move. Long past time we
would sneak cigarettes

behind the shop building,
huff butane from a bag,

practice art with safety
pins & bare skin. He’s done.

I close the door. The blade,
dropped in the sharps bin.

And though I shouldn’t, later
in the laundry I fold his warm

clothes—jeans, sweatshirt, one
sock then two—because all

of us are wanting in, wishing
out & meanwhile passing

between us a round hard thing,
inedible & glowing all the same.




Training at Tower East

Can’t get the catheter right, Stacey losing her grip,
Josh trying to keep a fist from popping into

my face while I search for the signal, yellow
flash, the man’s pain palpable & for a while we

make it worse. Cold hands, broken lift, I don’t know
how this happens, how the line turns to gold

how the kids smear their cupcakes on the hospital
floor. How we stand over twelve hours until we lean,

Kira eight months pregnant, taking notes and tilting
toward the wall. How does this happen, finding our way

into the building, waiting in line to pull meds, the floor
a circle we never decode until we break and descend,

Stacey telling of hawks & iris while I eat & waver,
not knowing if I’ve moved too far from center.

My hands raw with washing, my inner reaches sore
& wanting bells from the over-fogged mountains

when all I shake nightly from my ears are alarms to heart-
beat, to breath, the man’s wife crying on the phone

to his brother. A slice of sunlight slides to the floor—
even this far down we are found & we shift to sit

before a bank of windows looking into pale October
clouds, the shine vaulting between us each then up.

In a year this will be something I speed past, autumn
light cutting into my eyes, Kira’s baby walking,

Stacey working nights, Josh back in the ER. How
did it happen, the tower now sounding as a voice

displaced, an offering offset by what I want & how
it differs from what I receive: the red-silver leaves

fallen & circling outside. All of us moving into moving
on. The man’s children still asking where is it he’s gone.




At Sea

winter arrives late as snow washing over our cars my sails tattered my hand dropping the light this is my excuse cut down into icy waves family matters I lied not going into work this is my excuse how your suicide keeps my feet off the deck but hard on our trail its leaves long fallen my voice carrying to catch in branches iron gray be careful you said as I walked into work as I sat in my car eating lunch watching the line grow at Wendy’s counting times the entry gate rose and fell at the Self Storage strands of my hair now in the floorboards my excuses shining over us then when you swore Gallo’s had the best calamari given its proximity to the Scioto I remain cautious just as I am of men I half-message in dating apps this can be excused as stepping back from the tipping point the place I refuse pictures of home offices, cats, dogs, favorite meaningful songs & the piece of shit place for sale behind you this is my excuse your jade plant strung in red pepper lights what did the nets bring to surface jasmine on my neck patchouli in my hair those old stories lose their maps you know your glow a marble rolling over sea floor all day I watch the sun lean against two water towers while I ask clients every question I should have asked you this is my failing to carry forward to house where windows crane toward a weak northeastern noon a woman crying in wheel pose one hand torqued to the left we swam in connected storms signaling to the other our bodies a line of wire bodies two crows in flight both gauging horizons adrift with icebergs half-frozen half-thaw never were we in the right faded light at ten days my goal is to find you I close my eyes a rope releases you are standing on fine gray rocks gold white mountains distant your back to me as a fresh ocean emerges this is my excuse your light shining in the waves this is how my belief in magic returns