The smallest park in America

by Dorianne Laux

is dedicated to a poet, maybe
five people can stand up in it
which is enough warm bodies
for most poetry readings. Most
poetry readings are given at
dusk, the darkest part of twilight,
a poetic word if there ever was
one. The time right before Orion
rises in the east, a time when
all five poets look up and sing
their verses to his belt. There
is always a vase of just cut
flowers dying in a narrow
vase set upon a skinny, wobbly
lectern, a squat glass of water
some poets replace with vodka,
maybe a splash of bitters.
The poets’ poems are peeled
in layers like onion skins and
someone always cries mineral
tears that fall onto patches
of grass below from which
a staircase grows, winding
in a spiral into the crowns
of trees above, dislodging
hazel nuts everyone then
cracks with their poet-
loving teeth, grinding down
the mealy meat. After many
long distances and a boat
load of words, the poetry
reading ends, first to silence,
then to quiet applause,
at which point someone
bends down and unlatches
the shin-high gate and they
parade out the door made
of any weather and into
the dark hallways of evening
to search for their cars.
They stand for a moment
under the stars, remembering
what it was like to be held
gently in a lion’s open mouth.

Published on April 13, 2022