Adam Clay

Between Here and There



I was making a list of things

I’ve misunderstood


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

shifting beautifully


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


of vocabulary

creates a space to pause and exist

forever in.


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.