Between Here and There
I was making a list of things
in life up until this point. Even
if I cannot count the number
of rivers crossed or the number
of intersections between here
and there, I will maintain
a decent general disposition
until something better
or worse presents itself. I am
no longer allowed to sleep
on my back. I am no
longer allowed to think aloud,
though there are ways one
can keep quiet and still find solace
in an off-white ceiling split up
in pieces by a fan. It’s the moment
between today and tomorrow
and it seems simple enough
to be a citizen of both.
The Story and Its Stillness
Because this living exists
to devour each day carefully,
we spend most of our time
in the backyard hesitating into an autumn
we can barely begin to imagine.
Honestly, we’d prefer not to explain anything;
rather we’d prefer an understanding
be brought up from the dirt
like our notion of the present when
we’re in it and our ignorance
of the same moment
once it passes by.
A moment is only a mistake when held up
by the intention behind it. Now,
my mind careens off to another time
and another place, perhaps when I wasn’t fully eager
to accept such a ragged and normal sense of clarity.
But now I’m stumbling over what it even
means to define or desire clarity. The birds
have their way. The streets and sidewalks
parcel up the world
into a manageable mess
we can call our own. Without a trace of sincerity
or irony, the sky tonight feels bold
in simply the fact that it is. And the verb “to be”
persists and haunts and exists
too well for our liking. During the day: not quite enough.
You said an elegy should be
a type of exile,
but I am too new to the game
of mourning to agree.
The irretrievable moments
don’t seem so momentary
from this particular place
though with an eager view of the world,
one might see extraordinary things.
I feel less sure of the opposite
and of the forecast. Like
the flock of birds in Iowa
without order, nothing else seems
real or real enough. So few
times has chaos seemed so orchestrated
as it did that day in April. I wonder
where those birds find themselves now.
And deep inside that sense
of wondering or supposing,
a stillness emerges free of the person
who thought it.
I have no way of explaining
the imagination or how the lens
creates a space to pause and exist
What I do know
is that the stillness of this moment
becomes more and more significant
with the distance it gains
from the person who created it.
A harbor is like that: nearby
and far away suddenly—not meant
for this world or for the words
that seek so desperately to contain it.
ADAM CLAY is the author of A Hotel Lobby at the Edge of the World (Milkweed Editions, 2012) and The Wash (Parlor Press, 2006). A third book of poems, Stranger, is forthcoming from Milkweed Editions. His poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Poetry Daily, Denver Quarterly, Iowa Review, New Orleans Review, Black Warrior Review, and elsewhere. He co-edits TYPO Magazine and lives in Kentucky.