Marcel Gauthier


It’s when she drops to sleep in some odd spot,

the floor, a chair, curled to her beginnings,

hitchhiker’s thumb lodged in her mouth,

index finger compulsively brushing

the tips of her lashes, blue pulse

beating like a fast drip at her temple,

shaking the translucent face; it’s when

the whining and the stamping have

knocked her cold, and we find ourselves able,

like faith-healed cripples, to end a sentence,

complete a thought, stretch into the silences

that punctuate our talk: fear

at our impatience, fatigue at her will, 

panic at her fragility and need;

it’s when the leaves of marriage go small

time-backward, glowing, tender, and petals float upward

to blossom on the twigs, that we catch ourselves

struggling, like novice gardeners, to separate

the honeysuckle from the sweet  autumn

clematis, train one vine to the left, its neighbor

to the right, so each might thrive without

laying hold of the other, and bloom the summer

in parallel waves, knowing which

is who and who is which as if

both would forget if left to themselves

to reach and tangle and thicken to a cloud.



Through the Grate 

I used to listen to my mother’s nightmares

through the grate of the heating duct at the end of my bed.

Pressing my cheek to the warm iron, I’d hear her,

like an antique radio or a long distance call,

mid-conversation: talking, pausing, talking again,

her voice becoming louder, sharper. Then yelling:

Nein! Nein! Nein! Bitte!—half-sobbing,

and my father woken up: it’s ok, it’s ok . . .

At first they whispered (I pressed hard, held

my breath) but soon, if I was lucky, she’d go on.

Often about me, snatched and carried away

while others held her back; I’d see myself flailing,

kicking, biting to the bone. In her dreams, I always lost.

Long after they’d gone quiet, I’d still be listening,

to the boom . . . boom of the contracting ducts,

the ticking, the tinny resonance, as if the place

that I’d been carried to was a room in her mind,

and she and I were waiting now for the same thing:

the clicking to life of something deep and hidden

with a wuoof of fire, the shuddering walls, the rumble

and roar, the steady, burning exhalation.


Marcel Gauthier received his MFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he was a Randall Jarrell Fellow. He is also the recipient of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to study the question of authenticity in contemporary formal verse. He has published individual poems or small groups of poems in a variety of journals over the years, but most recently in Poet Lore, The Louisville Review, the Spoon River Poetry Review, and Still Home, an anthology of poems generated by Hub City Press in Spartanburg, South Carolina. A lifelong educator, he is currently the Assistant Head of School at the Waterford School outside of Salt Lake City, Utah.

Posted on July 7, 2014 .