Empty Pitchforks

By Thomas Lux b. 1946 Thomas Lux

“There was poverty before money.”

There was debtors’ prison before inmates,   
there was hunger prefossil,

there was pain before a nervous system   
to convey it to the brain, there existed

poverty before intelligence, or accountants,   
before narration; there was bankruptcy aswirl

in nowhere, it was palpable
where nothing was palpable, there was repossession

in the gasses forming so many billion ... ;
there was poverty—it had a tongue—in cooling

ash, in marl, and coming loam,
thirst in the few strands of hay slipping

between a pitchfork’s wide tines,   
in the reptile and the first birds,

poverty aloof and no mystery like God   
its maker; there was surely want

in one steamed and sagging onion,   
there was poverty in the shard of bread

sopped in the final drop of gravy
you snatched from your brother’s mouth.

Thomas Lux, “Empty Pitchforks” from New and Selected Poems: 1975-1995. Copyright © 1997 by Thomas Lux. Used by the permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Source: New and Selected Poems 1975-1995 (Houghton Mifflin, 1997)

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Poet Thomas Lux b. 1946

Subjects Social Commentaries, Money & Economics

 Thomas  Lux

Biography

Acclaimed poet and teacher Thomas Lux began publishing haunted, ironic poems that owed much to the Neo-surrealist movement in the 1970s. Critically lauded from his first book Memory’s Handgrenade (1972), Lux’s poetry has gradually evolved towards a more direct treatment of immediately available, though no less strange, human experience. Often using ironic or sardonic speakers, startlingly apt imagery, careful rhythms, and . . .

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SUBJECT Social Commentaries, Money & Economics

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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