po_Lux-Thomas1Thomas Lux (born December 10, 1946) is an American poet that holds the Margaret T. and Henry C. Bourne, Jr. Chair in Poetry at the Georgia Institute of Technology and runs Georgia Tech’s “Poetry at Tech” program.

Thomas has been a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award in Poetry and has received three National Endowment for the Arts grants and a Guggenheim Fellowship.


Thomas Lux

At the far end of a long wharf
a deaf child, while fishing, hauls in
a large eel and—not
because it is ugly—she bashes its brains
out of eeldom on the hot
planks—whamp, whamp, whamp, a sound
she does not hear. It’s the distance
and the heat that abstracts
the image for me. She also does not hear,
nor do I, the splash the eel makes
when she tosses it in her bucket,
nor do we hear the new bait
pierced by the clean hook, nor
its lowering into the water again.
Nobody could. I watch her
all afternoon until, catching nothing
else, she walks the wharf toward
me, her cousin, thinking
with a thousand fingers. Pointing
at our boat she tells me
to drag it to the water. She wants me to row
her out to the deep lanes of fish.
Poetry is a menial task.


Thomas Lux

His job is honest and simple: keeping
the forest tidy. He replaces,
after repairing, the nests
on their branches, he points every pine needle north,
polishes the owl’s stained perch,
feather-dusts the entrance
to the weasel’s burrow, soft-brushes
each chipmunk (the chinchilla
of the forest banal), buffs antlers, gives
sympathy to ragweed, tries to convince—
like a paternal and inept psychiatrist—
the lowly garter snake to think
of himself, as he parts the grass,
as an actor parting the stage curtain
to wild applause, arranges, in the clearing,
the great beams of light… This is his job: a day’s,
a week’s, a life’s calm, continuous,
low-paying devotion. At dawn
he makes a few sandwiches and goes
to work. I love this, he thinks as he passes
the wild watercress—its green as stunning
as surviving a plane crash—in the small,
inaccessible swamp.


Thomas Lux

Boil it down: feet, skin, gristle,
bones, vertebrae, heart muscle, boil
it down, skim, and boil
again, dreams, history, add them and boil
again, boil and skim
in closed cauldrons, boil your horse, his hooves,
the runned-over dog you loved, the girl
by the pencil sharpener
who looked at you, looked away,
boil that for hours, render it
down, take more from the top as more settles to the bottom,
the heavier, the denser, throw in ache
and sperm, and a bead
of sweat that slid from your armpit to your waist
as you sat stiff-backed before a test, turn up
the fire, boil and skim, boil
some more, add a fever
and the virus that blinded an eye, now’s the time
to add guilt and fear, throw
logs on the fire, coal, gasoline, throw
two goldfish in the pot (their swim bladders
used for “clearing”), boil and boil, render
it down and distill,
that for which there is no
other use at all, boil it down, down,
then stir it with rosewater, that
which is now one dense, fatty, scented red essence
which you smear on your lips
and go forth
to plant as many kisses upon the world
as the world can bear!