Lauren Camp

Honest Orbit
November 25, 2023 Camp Lauren

Honest Orbit


For weeks I sift in vast exits
at the observatory where the nights hold
precisely their oversized plots
of what is shiny
back in the past.


In each hour the accurate
scientists peel off the liquid ending. Such worship
as theirs is ordinary for apt minds. Like most, I don’t
know what has gone loose
or is left out there.


The lens has a focus. I gaze
on spheres. Instants bruise
to badlands of universe and the data
in the disorderly fresh air.
They could tell me anything: the cornucopia


of comets or planets
or rain, and I’d still
hear the wind with its ghostly
grammar, its cradling, its groveling.


You can want to watch what is
unseen. I’ve done that. Spent years standing
in the purple shadows, or arranging
how to say how much
I worry.


Spring blesses its fattening
buds in a process to resolve. The smell of ancestral
water. Pines teach sense, enclosing
what is true to life. But now—


before before before before before


I think what they tell me: verge
flank    chipping brink bearing            wet lip
thick grease     scratched limit
until we are further
and further back.


The days at this elevation are cold.
Another night
of obstinate clouds. The sky has rolled off,
careering toward absence.
I can’t remember much, just


gas and cloud, elliptic dust. Pauses
loop out, loop between the going and the been.


I know water, canyons, earth. I know funerals. I have held myself up
at the cemetery again and again. I saw photos


of the start and was willing
to name—if not ever
belong to—that older subtraction.


Lauren Camp is a 2023 Academy of American Poets Laureate fellow and the author of seven books, most recently An Eye in Each Square (River River Books) and Worn Smooth between Devourings (NYQ Books). Honors include the Dorset Prize and finalist citations for the Arab American Book Award, Housatonic Book Award and Adrienne Rich Award for Poetry. Her poems have been translated into Mandarin, Turkish, Spanish, French, and Arabic, and have recently appeared in Missouri Review, Poem-a-Day and Mid-American Review. She currently serves as Poet Laureate of New Mexico.­