Poetry by Cameron Quan Louie

Image by Jennifer Colten / jennifercolten.com

Downward Social Comparison, Sparkling Water, Focused Melancholy, the Death of the Monument, and a Diligent Appeal to Noise

To what do we owe the pleasure? 
As must be the case today around noon 
the boss spills lemon seltzer down 
one trouser leg and his two kids don't 
like the way he smells. Today I am afraid 
someone with more power than I have 
has clipped the ears off a bear and poured 
thousands of gallons of Gatorade into Old 
Faithful. I am talking about it. I am 
agreeing to be responsible. To eat less bread 
pudding and save all of my trash for a year 
and when it’s finally time to do the dirty 
work, to bring the chip bags and tinfoil and 
takeout boxes to a dewy pasture, to build 
a pyre and light it up and stand in silence 
in the plastic stink. I am agreeing to 
disagree with the small book of laws 
I live by, the way a ballerina agrees 
with the air she’s spinning in and can’t 
help but disagree with the end of the song.



Eulogy Template

What you don't lock your mouth
on can’t be helped or hurt. Just between
the smell of salt, pink gum, and rotting catfish

eggs is where to aim. And carefully,
like bringing a meniscus on a teaspoon
to the room upstairs. Or down.

Slow down. Like memory’s the final thread
of saffron on its way to being wasted
in beef stew. Let’s assume the consequences

will be nothing more than pain. Nothing
less than the plush of numbing down.
Easier to say, the common wisdom goes,

than to lose coffee grounds in watered dirt
at night. Than thoughts, or prayers, or hiccup. Pass.
The right words are the words for the occasion.



Conscious Uncoupling

We call an artificial
lens a contact. The
surface of you gets
bent, reforming
the world’s natural
blur into a clearer
shape. You’re a work
of art, don’t you see?
You should be hung
up with wire on a
gallery’s white walls
to look at everyone
who pays to come.
That show would
get old pretty fast.
I think it’s worth it
to ask, would you call
your eyeball a craving
or a carapace? Like
the contact, you
insist on keeping

the poem squarely
between us. That’s
And to think, you
could interpret only
the blur and I would
still be just as fond.
Are you breaking up
the little family of
you and me here? You
could teach the night
class on divorce, even
if you haven’t tried
it out. Did you know
you can split up with
yourself in poems?
The rule is, if there’s a
turn, there’s something
to return to.



Cameron Quan Louie is from Tucson. He received his MFA from the University of Washington. His work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and he received the McLeod-Grobe Prize for Poetry in 2017. He has also interned at Wave Books and was a Multiplying Mediums Fellow in 2016. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in inter|rupture, Duende, The Gravity of the Thing, Sonora Review, Hobart, and jubilat among others.