Lance Larsen

Pantheism for Beginners

Today the sky is blue enough to drown
in, this cloud floating over the county
the best grief counselor in weeks,
its shade more layered than rehab:
a place to loaf and sift. I toss pinecones
at the fence to scare away the ticking
in the middle of the day. I stand up
three times and three times my shadow
follows suit. How I love obedience—
also gravity. One shoe on in case
I suddenly need to save a mallard
from a cranky badger, one shoe off
so I blend in, au naturel, with fallen leaves
and this errant pair of ants dragging
a dead moth back to the club house.
This aspen grove is a library,
every book open to the same fluttery
chapter. Soon it will be time to turn
a stone over and trade summer for fall.
I will save the howl of a dog in a bottle.
Bring your PhD in dirt, your MFA
in dew and spore and together we’ll master
evaporation and the transmigration
of souls—how to return from the dead
the old-fashioned way, toadstools
sprouting from the remains of a dove.
For practice this windfall peach
will do: blow off gnats and grit, lift
it from the earth with just your mouth,
chew quickly before any bruises show.



Lance Larsen is the author of five poetry collections, most recently What the Body Knows (Tampa 2018). His poems have appeared in APR, TLS, Southern Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, Orion, MQR, New York Review of Books, Three Penny Review, Paris Review, New Republic, New England Review, and Best American Poetry 2009. Six of his nonfiction pieces have been listed as notables in Best American Essays. He teaches at BYU, where he serves as department chair and fools around with aphorisms: “When climbing a new mountain, wear old shoes.” In 2017 he completed a five-year appointment as Utah’s poet laureate.