Landscapes of Longing


Product Description

poems by

Bruce Lader

Poetry book, 90 pages, $14 cover price

($8 if ordered from the MSR Online Bookstore)

ISBN: 978-1-59948-203-3

Released: 2009

About The Author

Bruce Lader has published poems in many journals and anthologies, including Poetry, the New York Quarterly, the Humanist, International Poetry Review, Harpur Palate, New Millennium Writings, Margie, Poet Lore, and Asheville Poetry Review. His first full-length collection, Discovering Mortality, was a finalist for the Brockman-Campbell Award. He is the founding director of Bridges Tutoring, an organization educating multicultural students. A New York City teacher for many years, he was a Writer-in-Residence at the Helene Wurlitzer Colony, and has received an honorarium from the College of Creative Studies at the University of California-Santa Barbara.


The title, Landscapes of Longing, may sound as if it’s the work of a Romantic Poet, but believe me, it isn’t. The longing in this book is for justice, for lives lived without emotional and physical harm, for understanding of what retribution really means, and the complex aspects of true forgiveness. The poems are kinetic, clear-eyed, and brilliantly crafted. Bridged by classical Greek characters speaking in jazz-like solos, these interior views don’t let the reader off the hook for a second. Bruce Lader has brought us a powerful, unsparing, and yet tender book about the realities of self and culture that have assailed us since the beginning of human time.

–Kathryn Stipling Byer, North Carolina Poet Laureate

Landscapes of Longing does not hold back. Open it with care.

–Joanna Catherine Scott

From military battles to war’s rough parallels in schools, adolescence, and intimate relationships, Bruce Lader’s “landscapes” present images of humanity’s desperate existentialism as troubled boys “dodge and gamble to exist,” squeezing every bit of life they can out of what they know to be tragically countable. And at the hub of the book “leaving no rock unturned,” Sisyphus stands trial, an eternal symbol of striving brought
to light against the mountain of adversity.

–Scott Owens


Attendance Check

Swapping cigarettes, jabs, chips,
they drift like Rockaway waves
from the boys home into the classroom,
ninth graders no one would bet on,
discarded by split parents.

The deck of misfortune they inherited
keeps shoving them to grow up
the hard way, hustles them
to hazardous fringes,
rips off their blooming.
A hot tide of easy dope
has begun to nettle attitudes,
submerge questioning minds.

And yet their feisty, undefeated spirits
grapple with prison sentences
of poverty; shirtless torsos
flaunt scars, coded storylines
of tested identity,
graffiti pledges of belonging.
Their dicey hands are mauled,
notched, and zigzagged from brutal
battles to breach a barbed-wire fate.

Jumpy after all-night scuffles
with gangs prowling Times Square,
they dodge and gamble to exist,
smell like a crowded gym, fists ready
for fast money, to get over
on teachers, settle scores,
stay afloat in the system chiseling them.

Student Evaluation

The teacher’s a loser.
Not a scar, hands like Paris Hilton.
Believes kindness can block punches,
enemy knives that slash our blood.

He wears Disney glasses.
Never had a rival gang on his case
burning to steal everything.

Truckers, trash men, dealers
take in more money, drive cooler cars.
He should let us slide
when we don’t do work,
hand out A-pluses, help even the odds.

The nerd uses Odor Eaters,
walks that snobby hood talk,
doesn’t dig hip-hop,
can’t get no other job.

His jokes make us cough.
No one savvies his geezer jive
like How do you open windows
of caring and peace?

As if riddles give respect,
could turn backstabbers into brothers.

When we’re only playing,
he goes buggy, lectures on forgiveness,
bringing home the gold of freedom.
As if mushy dreams can stop
bangers from stomping.

We want the real deal who can KO,
teach us to get upmarket dinero.



Why did it annoy him, that pet-name
“Pookie Face?” She was only endearing
her new lover. Wanting things smooth
as their massages, he thanked her
for the teddy she said looked like him

that actually looked more like his friend,
thanked her gift after closely-following gift,
felt awkward, but special, getting flowers
at work; the reversal surprised,
even excited him. It had to be only

modest exaggeration when she told him
she was like that with all her friends.
So what, if she’d also given other lovers
mini-rosebushes, still sent them greeting cards
like those he got without his name.

He would get used to the gush
of compliments that seemed
for someone else. Maybe he did have
a masculine jaw-line, a nose for money
and really didn’t need time to himself

time he would have given her if she
hadn’t gone off to stay with parents
she wouldn’t let him meet, if his friend
hadn’t phoned him in the desert
of vanished strokes to say they were involved.

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