The Pissing Contest – Charles G Lauder Jr

The Pissing Contest

Little boys with their penises in hand
gathered about a porcelain trough,
the drain a silver dome,
when all they know of politics
is what they overhear their parents declare,
so though they know nothing of Watergate
and eighteen minutes of missing tape,
nor of Ehrlichman and Hunt, Mitchell and Dean,
they know ‘Nixon’, with its hard ‘ks’ lump,
and Congressional hearings, the long, droning table of men
in a dark wooden-panelled room
and the high smack of a gavel,
broadcast on all three TV channels,
stealing away afternoon cartoons
and Mothers’ soaps for weeks on end,
they stand there, penises grasped in little hands,
following the biggest boy’s lead
and aim their streams at the silver dome drain:
Look at me! I’m peeing on the Capitol!
Only a few of the arched golden flows
have the strength to splatter against the dome,
burst through its holes like a water cannon
against windows, offices and corridors flood
with desks and sofas floating away in the foam,
interns and PAs swim to get clear.
It doesn’t matter if they really meant
the White House, or Congress,
or Washington in general,
this is for Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck,
and, if their mothers were here,
The Guiding Light and As the World Turns,
little boys peeing until penises run dry
and the pee drains away,
leaving a stink and a stain,
the little boys are proud of their new game,
as penises are waved and shook, then tucked away.
This before the days of separate urinals,
like older brothers and fathers already use,
where they’ll stand, distracted by size,
and brag to one another that the water is cold,
and the biggest boy will reply, And deep too.

Charles G Lauder Jr grew up in Texas and has lived in south Leicestershire since 2000. He has two pamphlets Bleeds (CCC, 2012) and Camouflaged Beasts (BLER, 2017). His debut collection is The Aesthetics of Breath (V.Press, 2019):

Featured Publication – The Aesthetics of Breath by Charles G Lauder Jr

Our featured publication for January is The Aesthetics of Breath by Charles G Lauder Jr, published by V. Press.

There’s an enviable gusto and assurance about this debut, the confident voicing of a
distinctive sensibility that deserves our attention. Lauder has a keen ear for the musical and metrical possibilities of a well-wrought line which well serves his deftly rendered lyric style. Particularly impressive are the domestic sequences and longer poems which hold both interest and momentum throughout: an achievement of poetic coherence and craft that can only be accomplished by a poet more than ready to stake a claim for his place on the contemporary scene.‘ Martin Malone

In his debut collection, Charles G. Lauder is not afraid to delve beneath the surface of white masculinites, unearthing violence and toughness but vulnerability and tenderness also. This means examining his own past in the US; what he has inherited, what he brings to his life in England, and what he finds there. Again and again, poems reveal that his family is his lodestone: “We are our elements. I would be lost/without them.” The Aesthetics of Breath is a rich and varied collection which has love and social justice at its heart but does not turn aside from uncomfortable truths.‘ Pam Thompson

The Aesthetics of Breath is NOT a breath of fresh air – it is an unflinching, deep breathing-in of a gas called ‘history’, so that it hurts in the lungs. Be they personal myths or legends of entire nations’ violence, here the vapours of various histories sublimate into Lauder’s vivid ‘solidifications’ – poems that render the distance and otherness of places and times as touchable and smelt. Some of these poems are ‘stellar gases congealing into orbits’, and they are celebratory confirmations of essential stories we humans need to tell our selves. But be warned: some of these poems cast ‘Hiroshima shadow[s]’ to exorcise our civilisation’s pale myths, its ghosts that too often comfortably haunt us, and our too easy and shallow breaths of memes. At times this book is like opening a grave to find the buried still alive … and violently gasping out accounts of ‘the ruling passions of the woods.’ Mark Goodwin




There’s a river that runs behind the house
where most go to murder,
hands around the throat, head held down.

A day doesn’t go by when a body
isn’t being dragged to the water’s edge.
There’s not much resistance as I stare

at the back of the empty skull; I never
look at the face – all complete strangers.
One could be my family but I’ll never know.

I rummage through the pockets
before the current takes them away
and then go back inside for dinner.

Some are of color, some pale.
I never give a thought to ghosts
or what their life was like.

It’s a fair assumption I wouldn’t
have liked them. At some point
they probably would have shot me

or my kin, or stolen from me. So much
of what I have is less than what
my father and grandfather had.


The Japanese Movie

When friends’ backs are turned – preoccupied
with ice cream and their year-long trip to France
flitting in and out of French as if in love –
I hide in the audience of a Japanese movie
as if slipping from one dream to the next
the ending clear but not how it’s supposed to be.

There is comfort in the dark with strangers
not looking at one another but at a spot
above each other’s head flashes of movement
and color that take us back to the beginning
when there was only laughter and gesture
I couldn’t speak the language
…………………….and no one could speak mine.


Dirty Laundry

Your mother cannot shift the carbon dioxide out of the bottom of her lungs where it
piles up overnight like old laundry. She cannot exhale those dreams of angry men and
dead boys. The burden pins her to the bed. Your father, reeking of sawdust, puts it down
to lack of exercise, the meds, a virus she probably caught on last year’s cruise, the Asian
breathing into a mask in the next bed. When your mum gets her breath back, she scolds
him for the overboiled egg salad sandwich, for losing his wallet and not paying the bills,
for not having finished tiling the kitchen wall. Fifty years of avoiding an argument has
finally burst. Making your excuses, you collect your mother’s soiled clothes and retreat
home to wash it all away.


Sunday Morning

As a child in church, bored by sermons of sin
and resurrection, I stared at how stiff collars
dug neatly into the crevices of men’s necks,
heads bowed and raised in prayer like marionettes.

Like ducks nodding to one another
before the drake mounts the hen.
Does he worry about life and death
while he bites her scruff, pins her down?

The cat brings us half-eaten mice, or a shrew
that bolts as soon as it’s dropped,
the dog nearby rolls in traces of fox piss.
Do either think whether there is purpose?

Perhaps the rabbit contemplates – amid
shredded cabbage and straw, likewise
bullocks in the grass before the tractor
arrives with feed – why we’re here.

Was it thanks to God, ponders the cock
as it leaps into the neighbor’s yard
to flee the stench of a cracked egg,
or the right combo of carbon molecules?

The ducks unearth a frog, pull at a rear leg
as it screams and leaps lopsided
toward the hedge, the ducks in hot pursuit.
I don’t get out of my chair to intervene.

Charles G Lauder Jr was born in San Antonio, Texas, lived for a few years each on America’s East and West Coasts, and moved to south Leicestershire, UK, in 2000. His poems have been published widely in print and online, and in his two pamphlets Bleeds (Crystal Clear Creators, 2012) and Camouflaged Beasts (BLER, 2017). From 2014 to 2018, he was the Assistant Editor for The Interpreter’s House, and for over twenty years he has copy-edited academic books on literature, history, medicine, and science. His debut poetry collection is The Aesthetics of Breath (V. Press, Oct 2019). Twitter: @cglauder

The Aesthetics of Breath is available for purchase from the V. Press website.

Bardo – Charles G Lauder Jr


All night the TV flickers off and on again,
broadcasting a signal that all darkness
is temporary. A tiny, flashing green light
and then the story resumes,

though the plot’s moved on. What words
were spoken while our eyes were shut?
Was it the meaning of life
and where does that fella in gray fit in?

Even the white noise of the washing machine
takes a moment, then continues spinning.
We could call out a repairman,
but he’ll only recommend a new model.

Snow is forecast for Dumfries tomorrow,
double digits for London. No clue
what’s to happen here,
except that I have to bury the cat.


Charles G Lauder Jr is an American poet who has lived in the UK for several years. He has published two pamphlets: Bleeds (2012) and Camouflaged Beasts (2017), and he is the Assistant Editor for The Interpreter’s House.

Inhale – Charles G Lauder Jr


Up until the morning you gave birth,
I could not feel the boy’s impending presence,
I could not see how we were going to fit him
into our lives, like a lift unexpectedly depositing
guests into the middle of the living room
and we rapidly scramble to make space, find beds.
Or like prying a crowbar between the iron doors
of our shut-tight lives and tossing in
a grenade. Like the dream I had
of the house being built on the hill just behind us
and the workers told me to stay away
until it was ready. Only then
did I get a feel of his coming, and gingerly
laid a hand on your belly and slept.


Charles G Lauder Jr is an American poet who has lived in the UK for several years. He has published two pamphlets: Bleeds (2012) and Camouflaged Beasts (2017), and he is the Assistant Editor for The Interpreter’s House.