Three Poems - Brian Laidlaw

"These poems and songs are from THE MIRRORMAKER, a book-plus-album that relocates the myth of Echo and Narcissus to Bob Dylan's hometown in Minnesota's Iron Range. The collection is forthcoming from Milkweed Editions, and serves as a counterpoint to Laidlaw's debut collection THE STUNTMAN, which was published by Milkweed last year." —Brian Laidlaw

Echo’s Ailments


to call something harmless admits
a certain potential

for harm (love is not &
neither is unknowing)—

homes on dead-flats
sink into prairie sinks; gradations

from landslide to landfall

to rock-fall to rockabilly to rock-a-bye

bifurcate the county—
we watch half a mountain collapse

like a stroked face, then

we help the half
that didn’t collapse collapse

Echo’s Dreams

Echo dreams of being an Onassis
lookalike. Dreams sheer textiles, greenrooms

with checkerboard portents. 


In the highland umber is a primary color; the others
are olive & marigold.


Born with creeds, with bangs, with a cuneiform how
hewn in her browline.

Bobbies, bobbins. Plain bobs. One butterfly

The heavens hemispheric to her.


She might be bloodless. She dislikes: the garish parish,
the reds, garrisons, quarters

holed up in the amaranth home. The linseed skim
in the crockpot.


They say store oil-drums, water-drums, snare-drums
to summon a rain. They say

My body’s grotto is sublime
like I am a beige near-vapor.


They say a lot of upcountry things thus far upcountry:
Carry a whistle, a frisson. 

Carry a lead smock.

 Echo’s Impressions


Echo does impressions: bombs for pom-poms, bombshells for kneepads,
née-deep in your/man’s notions of feasible


Nobody going nowhere fast. You got licked by a greyhound
station, licked clear cold out

It was similar to having or to
being a mother:

here’s to being heretofore human, here’s to the time being.


You, swimming in moons, machinery, liquids, assets, have a voice

like a strangulation
victim, born out of the wrong end, out of a mouth like a slur.


I am a visual statement of myself;
you are an acoustic you.


Echo is a sugarsweet gumshoe; chewing gum
drops your white teeth right out

You’ll rap an oldtime rag on her behalf, you say “There’s a shake shop
downtown with curlicue straws” &

she rephrases
“There’s a maltshop downtown with a roundabout bar.”


Also: the beautiful don’t die young, only their beauty does.




Brian Laidlaw is a poet-troubadour from San Francisco. His work has been published widely in journals including Field, Agni, New American Writing, The Iowa Review, and American Songwriter Magazine. Laidlaw recently released AMORATORIUM, a vinyl-LP-plus-poetry-chapbook, with Paper Darts Press, and his first full-length collection of poems, THE STUNTMAN, was published by Milkweed Editions in 2015. He divides his time between Minneapolis and the Sierra Nevada, and continues to tour nationally as a folksinger.