AN EAGLE OWL IS EXPLAINED

featured in the poetry forum June 30, 2020  :: 0 comments

Long ago I was an owl in Usambara.
I chased echoes through the cliff stone.
I winged the silence that caught me.

I would have been a child on an island.
I would have told you thirteen tall tales.
There would have been one boat sinking.
There would have been farmers drowning.

You would have called me a braggart,
a trash-picker. My guitar was a dead tree.
My family forgot how long ago I was an owl.

editors note:

Remember what we were before we became what we are? – mh clay

SCOPING

featured in the poetry forum December 7, 2019  :: 0 comments

Time hides all its words beyond our voices.
My neighbor swears almost every sunrise
ricochets Mosul through his body. He can’t
say where the fighting ended, or if it ended.
He can’t say why the sniper’s ghost laughs
into his dreams. Victory rattles the screen door,
and losses smear starlight across window frost.

This is what I pretend he’d say if he were a poet,
or a young songwriter traipsing around the backyard
hunting for his words along the chain-link fence.
His guitar would sound like a cold jaybird screeching
at a cat. All his words would burn away like river fog
mid-morning. He’d be telling his family somewhere
the sniper had come back to life to focus the gun-scope.

editors note:

Listen; intently, patiently. Give them time to find the words. – mh clay

DEFIANCE

featured in the poetry forum September 7, 2019  :: 0 comments

It might not be strange to find a butterfly
on a battleship, middle of the Indian Ocean,
middle of heaven’s torn wings, sulphured
and bleached into a child on a raft, or a shark
finning through lightning. The butterfly wants
to say its name is Rosita, or Candelita, or Wall,
or Iceberg. It hungers for marigold nectar all day.
It says its flesh feels like a frozen bullet, what
that feels like is all the pages of a book torn out
and burning in the middle of the battleship
when the storm is over, when the radar screen
says there is nothing real out there, nothing nearby,
just wave after wave, rising through the Zodiac
where the only thing with a chitinous exoskeleton
in the sky is a weird crab heavy with its giant stars
and nebulae scheming and scheming to grow wings.

editors note:

Living where life ought not to be, sky or sea; or suburb here with you and me. – mh clay

DON’T CALL IT A BOAT

featured in the poetry forum April 4, 2019  :: 0 comments

A boat waits inside a cliff stone.
It’s a brood-neck of Mars motored
half-through basalt. It’s got steel
sensing the eyes of an old archeologist,
and it pretends it’s a fossil like a man.

A murrelet lays its egg in a nest there.
The embryo can hear the boat in its heart,
and the boat has already swallowed it
so the baby won’t ever hatch, won’t
stretch weird little wings against storm clouds.

The boat’s so old it watched thousands
and thousands of murrelets scrape lightning
from their minds to keep themselves flying.
And now the boat teases. It works the beard
and then the neck of the archeologist,
so that he’s head-deep in an alien’s soul
wishing for another Mars beyond Mars.
His words tighten like eroded fingers
around his lamp. There is no other world.

editors note:

Auk-ward archeologist as artifact. – mh clay

VEILED

featured in the poetry forum December 28, 2018  :: 0 comments

A neighbor has labeled Mars
frozen across graph paper. She says
landings have been faked, the next
will also. She believes our satellites
have flattened the curve of the earth
into starlight, and four giant waterfalls
dropping into space. She says poets are
mean winter voices veiled by fire. God
gets everyone who leaves the world, and
nobody owns real wings. The last War
is coming soon, she says. All her charts
place everything ending in one line.

editors note:

As we chart our course for the approaching New Year, let’s keep those lines open. – mh clay

SENTENCING

featured in the poetry forum April 28, 2018  :: 0 comments

Tonight I begin to escape a fossil.
It shoulders a trillion stars in its skin.
It slips a black ink inside its voice
and deepens it into words. Stay, it says.
Stay, and be born here, be thrown a wheel,
be whispered out through the maple leaves,
be fathered and be mothered like a soldier
tied to a rifle knotted to a helicopter
frozen to a city where the launchers
count backwards, pretending numbers
sound like names, that aren’t names.

Tonight I stop escaping.
There’s a rose pressed to a glacier.
There’s a devil squeezed into a prayer.
Bees drink their empty honeycombs.
Air siphons their wings. Dirt dances.
And some very busy melting fingers fist-up
like tadpoles sprouting legs inside a stone.
These ask me, home? There’s no house.
There’s no flesh. There’s a voice nodding
down a gun barrel. Oh, closing in.
Whatever the world is. Whatever it is.

editors note:

When world is whatever, whatever is woe. – mh clay

HARVESTING GHOSTS

featured in the poetry forum January 21, 2018  :: 0 comments

Thieves arrest midnight
because willows choke the sky
where a farmer starved

he wore a red hat
along the path to his house
this fits his headstone

now he mocks the ghosts
the ones born with all the stars
shining for no one

he is robbing thieves
they are all cops and judges
they are his fathers.

editors note:

Fall to sidle up to selfish celestial ancestors; take your place, take all. – mh clay

HOUSING

featured in the poetry forum October 24, 2017  :: 0 comments

The sky will close inside a willow
like all the blue riddles, like all
the scientists a million winters after
all the leaves fall.

I have not danced much with the sky
or its lightning, or along the dirt road
where the river birds refuse their wings
and begin gaping up from their roosts
because the moonrise squeezes against
every feather and reveals the distance
they must migrate against their own shadows.

Same for my mother, a widow now,
chopping out bamboo roots, because
they have inched to the basement wall,
and so far they are only growing parallel
to the cinderblocks. It’s not a dream,
she says, not a home for a bear cub,
or the ghost beagle, or baby chickens
teasing after June-bugs. It’s the work
asleep in itself, beginning to end.

editors note:

When where we want to be is not where we are. – mh clay

A HOUSE IN ATLANTIS

featured in the poetry forum June 7, 2017  :: 0 comments

The boat is gray that wakes from inside
the anchor, 300 feet down, where divers
laugh at empty oxygen, because they’re
skeletons eating Halloween clam-shells
from the eyes inside the planks. Air
dissolved in this water feels like bait-fish
hooked to a thumb, scraps of their fins
are almost starlight at the surface. The boat
meanwhile is drifting like an island full of snow
that melted from a dinosaur’s spine feathers.

I wish I could tell you how to dive
inside a molecule, not like in a magic movie
computer camera trick dubbed in hieroglyphics.
It’s more like the creature that sells heaven
to angels. And it’s more like a castle shrinking
around you, everything on top of Atlantis,
everything’s crazy dream, like prophesying
fish bones and oyster shells fattening the invaders
because somebody used to be a saint up a palm tree.

I wish I could also build you a house in Atlantis
where you could fry pancakes, and sing the blues,
and watch a herd of stegosaurs evolve into willows.
At the end of the year, you’d be ready to surface.
And I’d be strumming along. The door doesn’t lock.
The kids swim with dolphins. There’s a boat
on the roof, and it sings, too. The sky lives there
and it is wishing for itself a world.

editors note:

We can create, like the creator(s); they started with a word – as do we. – mh clay

SUPPLICATION

featured in the poetry forum February 21, 2017  :: 0 comments

Speed changes the hum from a shadow
to a wall, from a finch to one wild shoat
scrounging through the reeds, oinking
where the parasites have married its voice,
and the herd has wallowed and rooted away
the swamp. Speed is impossible here.
Predation is real. This gator-sized spider
is cupping sunlight in its web. This python
that whispers your name can squeeze stars
through its ribs. The snake’s heart is silent
even when its rough jaws distend around you
and most of the world feels like a gunny sack
on its tongue. The hum is like water spooned
from a cactus far away. You keep wishing
until God does all the wishing for you. You
have felt like running faster than all the water
you are walking on, because the sea is rising.

editors note:

The water’s span from predator to prey, only a prayer’s breadth away. (We welcome Clyde to our crazed conclave of Contributing Poets with this submission. Read more of his madness on his new page – check it out.) – mh clay