Four Poems by Gregory Luce


The wish to be an insect

the hard carapace,
the perfectly fitted armor
plates on the back,
the bristly fast legs,
the delicate, finely tuned
antennae, the compound eyes,
no brain,
all active receptors.

To scratch across tile
or linoleum, feeding on crumbs
of sugar or shit.

A short active purposeful
life, alert in corners
and behind baseboards,
useful in its way,
social without
obligations, replicated
millions-fold, minutest
partaker of eternity.



The Pugilist Retires

It’s hard to remember
on a morning when the sky is low
and pressing down and even crows
are flying with their shoulders hunched:
The universe is not your enemy.
Children don’t run away
when you appear and no one
crosses the street when you approach.

Take off the gloves.
The ring has been dismantled,
the audience has gone home,
and there’s no one left
to fight.


Poem Instead of Sleep

(for H.S.)

“I made the wall of shadow draw back,
beyond desire and act, I walked on.” –Neruda

Midnight. Madame Bovary unopened
on the bed. Neruda’s poems
under the bedside table.
I lie among broken
shadows in the light of
a single lamp.

12:10. I read two lines
from Neruda and pick up
the pen again.

12:30. The shadows remain,
they do not lengthen
or decrease but only shift
as I turn a page or take
a drink of water
and I only think
of you when I lift
my eyes for a moment
and my thoughts flow
around you like
these shadows when I
turn my body away
from the light.



Vicissitudes of the morning
light washing along the floor,
and confused sounds—birds
and traffic and voices—
and sheets tangled around
my feet, and I am a thing apart,
in parts. A small pain
in the back of my head
as I sit up and my feet
are not quite able to plant
themselves solidly on the floor.
As I walk tentatively
to the bathroom I am
thinking of coffee and
the one dream image
I brought up with me
from sleep, and trying to see
a face, someone I talked to
last night, her voice clear
and warm even now, but
I only recall her smile
and her eyes and not even
their color. I am thinking
too about what the day
will bring and my hands
are actually trembling
in apprehension but
the coffee is dripping
and spreading its fragrance
and I pour a cup, add
the milk, and take a long drink
and I am almost
deliriously happy when
I finish it and pour
another for after the shower.
The hot water on the back
of my neck dissolves the pain
in my head and I would sing
out loud but for fear
I would frighten the cat.


About the Creator: Gregory Luce

Gregory Luce

Gregory Luce is the author of the chapbooks Signs of Small Grace (Pudding House Publications) and Drinking Weather (Finishing Line Press). His above poem “The wish to be an insect” will appear in an upcoming book. His poems have appeared in numerous print and online journals, including Kansas Quarterly, Cimarron Review, Innisfree Poetry Review, If, Northern Virginia Review, Foundling Review, MiPOesias, Praxilla, Little Patuxent Review, and in the anthologies Living in Storms (Eastern Washington University Press) and Bigger Than They Appear (Accents Publishing). He lives in Washington, D.C. where he works as Production Specialist for the National Geographic Society.

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