Self-Portrait in the Glare of a Self-Portrait
My daughter with a handful of worms,
the grass greener somehow overnight.
Each day feels like our moment
to make something of the sky,
a sky that almost dares us to do without it.
The roads that stretch out from town
imagine a life without us too, I imagine,
but why must we go anywhere? A head
of garlic in a pot of peas on the stove--
or a heart left behind for the sake
of saltiness, of memory? My mind takes
the place of a single cloud chalked
in the sky above. I keep trying to invent
a way of exiting, but it always leads back
to existence, my words a minor
reminder of what it took to arrive here.
Confession in Passing
I have been the memory of a seashell entirely
independent of the mind. Happily conscious.
Certain of exhaustion and nothing else need be
reported because after all the windows apologize
to the light all day long. There is a lion. Here
is a possum. There are some candles destroying
themselves in a sullen and deplorable act
of enthusiasm. Where would you prefer
these inquiries be placed? In the light of day?
We didn’t choose any of this, but we did choose
some of this. I like the lovely fact that the only thing
alive is the only thing worth deserting. Who made
this up? Like a photograph’s ability to make you
seasick, each day presents its own narrow name
along the back of your throat. And then they’re gone
and then they’re back again. Of course this repetition
isn’t dragging us downward, but movement in any
direction is dragging, by design, or it should have been
if it isn’t. And like this movement, we demand
starting and stopping. Could a child be the best reminder
of any movement, sensible or not? Think of the plow
destroying a sentence that has yet to be constructed,
imagined, or engulfed by those around it. There
goes the train you should be on. Isn’t this what impulse
is all about? I used to know. I used to know something
other than weariness, but mortality manages to memorize
our patterns with so little effort. I like that. And I like
the quality of every single assurance we feel
tempted to articulate out toward an atmosphere
we know is little more than happenstance,
little more than taking care of what needs tending to.
Adam Clay is the author of A Hotel Lobby at the Edge of the World (Milkweed Editions, 2012) and The Wash (Parlor Press, 2006). His third book of poems, Stranger, is forthcoming from Milkweed Editions in 2016. He co-edits TYPO Magazine and teaches at the University of Illinois Springfield.