Christopher Locke


Clouds stretch a blindfold grey
across the stars, and everything I’ve
learned about devotion sifts down
in endless flakes, tracing the angle
between you and your animal
breath, shovel parting air like
beaded curtains. Grill and lawn chair
fill bright with emptiness, and you
watch the field grow deeper, where
last summer a trailer went up in flames,
and the mother broke free, herself on fire
as she made a path burning through
the milkweed and collapsed holding
a blue swaddle smoking like something
unholy, and which none of the rescuers
dared name. And for once everyone came
to the church, the white boards stacked
around the hum of their suffering as the pastor
reminded them they can’t ever know His
plan, even as they lined up to say how
sorry they were to a man newly bewildered.
So now, with nothing to be done, you turn
back to your job of clearing driveway and
walkway, relieving the earth of weight so soft
children could collapse and make angels.

“Angels” is from Christopher Locke’s new book of poems, Music for Ghosts (NYQ Books, 2022). He was the founding Editor of Lungfish Review and served as Nonfiction Editor at SLICE Literary for several years. His poems, essays, and stories can be found in The North American Review, The Sun, The Rumpus, Poets & Writers, Another Chicago Magazine, Southwest Review, Verse Daily, The Literary Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, RATTLE, Poetry East, 32 Poems, etc. His latest book of travel writing is Ordinary Gods, (Salmon Poetry—2017) and he won the Black River Chapbook Award (Black Lawrence Press—2020) for his collection of short stories 25 Trumbulls Road. Locke has received over a dozen grants, fellowships, and awards for his poetry including the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Award, state grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, and Poetry Fellowships from Fundacion Valparaiso, (Spain) and PARMA (Mexico). He teaches creative writing at North Country Community College and Ray Brook Federal Prison, both in the Adirondacks. 

Next poem

Previous poem

Oil Painting; The Black-Crowned Night Heron and the Snowy Egret, Eiko Tsuchiya

Winter 2021