Today's poetry for today's world

Lynne Thompson


Lynne Thompson’s Beg No Pardon won the 2007 Perugia Press First Book Award and the Great Lakes Colleges New Writers Award.  A Pushcart Prize nominee and the author of two chapbooks, We Arrive By Accumulation and Through a Window, Thompson received commissions from Emory University and Scripps College to write poems in collaboration with a choreographer and a sculptor, respectively.  Thompson’s poems have previously appeared or are forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review, Sou’wester, Ploughshares, In Posse Review, and Poemeleon.  Her book reviews have been included in Poetry International and Spillway.  Most recently, her work was featured in the 2010 anthology New Poets of the American West.  Thompson lives in Los Angeles, California, where she is the Director of Employee & Labor Relations at UCLA.






Click on the cover to buy Beg No Pardon.










is and is not

a velveteen pillow




a dinner hour mistake

with candied yams on the side


a box at the bottom of


flightless penguins

hitchhiking through town


footprints in a cemetery






two moon-pies per gypsy


greedy art and dirigible need


rushes and reeds

tracing paper on papyrus


the solo, the ensemble


wood ticks

wax moths


hand-drum, thrum-

thrumming the hand         


a river, a poplar,

the same old questions






I come to struggle,


                            to eat the edges of;


to abrade the chemical

& the alchemical


in the falling night, always

a souvenir wrapped in a rigamarole;

Vivaldi versus Jay-Z.


I’m rapt in biblical passages but never

            in any Book of Revelations or

         Koran or Green Hornet.


All is taboo.  Every day’s like any other

habit.         A telegram never opened.




Originally published in Ploughshares, Winter 2010-11, Vol. 36, No. 4








            —lays corroding on Atlantic’s sandy bottom, off the

northern coast of Norway; under Vjestford; seaweed, kelp


and starfish scuttling up and around her lanyard and deadeyes

over her rotting ropes.  Crystalline rock buffs what’s left of her glory—


re-commissioned as she was, for his Majesty’s Service, 1939;

deployed to evacuate Narvik, its Allied forces and a few Jews,


June, 1940, until she ran afoul of Nazi torpedoes.  But that’s the end

of her story.  It began when the Vandyck was built after the war


to end all of them.  She launched February, 1921—full throttle

for Montevideo, Pernambuco, Barbados, then on to New York. 


Fortnightly services she gave to the hoi polloi and a fine lot of them

came aboard:  Anna Pavlova and her corps de ballet bedazzled


on the main deck, moved terre à terre in one spit-and-polished salon

under Vandyck’s twinkling lights while Shackleton, the Arctic explorer,


was sailing his last spring tide topside, his rheumy eyes watching

the passing as he leaned out from her stern.  Still, lower decks for lesser


classes were the best places for hi-jinks and hard tack.  This is their

history, too.  Ellis Island’s log books tell tales of the Portuguese, Chinese,


of Italians and Caribbean Brits.  Of the Silvas, Rodriguez, Blackmans

and Paynes who came to Brooklyn but not until every alien answered—


who paid for your passage?  How much money are you bringing? 

Are you deformed—a polygamist—an anarchist?  All were examined. 


In 1923, AR Jenkins, MD, inspected young schoolmaster Thompson

who came—like many others, crossing after crossing, coveting America’s


normalcy.  A Grenadine, young Thompson, my daddy, my ole man,

history’s onlooker, a witness to how it all dissolves to watery graves.




Originally published in Poem, Memoir, Story, No. 8






                                                for my parents


I thought I knew you.  To me, you were the Grenadines,

the Anglican Church, and a cricket match every Sunday,

and every Sunday, you were Fort Charlotte, the Vincy Mas,

and blue tide pools.  You were Arawaks sailing into Kingstown

Harbor.  You were English and French patois, rainforests,

regatta and a Congo snake, whelk, rotis, lobster and rum.


Yet, here you are in a yellowing photograph, in the Mojave or

Death Valley, CA, looking like deserters from an American war:

her, every bit the boy, hair slicked, leather jacket cinched at her

throat, her tiny foot on the running board of a black ’37 Ford

coupé — and you, looking nothing less than a black Clyde Barrow,

flicking the butt of your Lucky Strike, checking out your boys

at play in the dirt wearing short pants and high-tops — everyone

looking for all the world as if the Caribbean was a dream, a far

yesterday away, and it was, and it’s clear:  I did not know you.




Originally published in the Crab Orchard Review, Summer/Fall 2004;

Vol. 9, No. 2 and republished in Beg No Pardon, Perugia Press, 2007




Writing Advice: When you think you’ve completed a poem, read it aloud, then read

it aloud again.  The poem isn’t complete until it has found its own music.  And always,

I go back to Lucille Clifton’s guidance which I included as an epigraph to Beg No Pardon:

“I have brought my witness eye with me/and my two wild hands . . . ”




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