Lauren Camp

To Fail and Fail and Still Go On

Sunrise. Tight roads
hew to a line
of Sitka. Gatekeepers, gray scaffold.

Agnes Martin burned her paintings.
For twenty years, she painted and for twenty years
she made them
ash. Someone in the kitchen called this ambition.

Tonight, we build a fire.
Sit on wooden chairs, a wire bench.

Where a mouth might enter
one solitude follows another, ready to loosen.

A man smokes a cigar: fingers the fume.
In the pit, flames bend
and funnel. I say very little, watch the red

sparks spit. Bright scatterings.
When the flames weep and jump, I realize
how raw I am. I want to go

nowhere. Surrender to its twists.
Listen less to what I think

I need. What if ambition is stopping? How immediate
it feels to notice nothing, to scent the air.
The talk turns to politics, and what reason.

In the pit, ember and everything
I wish to bear. Sighs and the questions.


Lauren Camp is the author of four poetry collections, most recently Turquoise Door (3: A Taos Press, 2018). Her third book One Hundred Hungers (Tupelo Press, 2016), won the Dorset Prize and was a finalist for the Arab American Book Award and the Housatonic Book Award. Lauren’s poems have appeared in The Los Angeles Review, Poet Lore, DIAGRAM, Boston Review, Crazyhorse and elsewhere. An emeritus fellow of the Black Earth Institute, she lives and teaches in New Mexico.