ADAM CLAY


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
HOW TO MANAGE THE IVY

Perhaps simply saying one thing
and doing another would make

the most sense at any given time,
except for the impending grip

of frost you dreamt about with
such clarity that it might as well

be surreal. Wakefulness departs
with such ease that cutting back

the branches in your sleep makes
the least sense, but you do it anyhow

with the arm of an architect. Should
I grow tired of growing tired,

I will wait up all night on the last
night of a drifting September and you

won’t even see me, of course, which
is the only consolation worth consoling.
 
 
 
 
UPPER PENINSULA

A bronze sky at first seemed the best way
to describe it, but later the description

fell away into something more vapid
or mundane than one might expect, though

the sky did not. Your feet doubted the land
you were standing on. Even a lawn-chair

falling from the heavens would
have made more sense; even falling asleep

while standing upright felt more natural than this.
What we are is cut into the ground and continues

to burrow absent-mindedly into the source
of our birth. A shipwreck for every misguided

thought. A sandstone skipped across the water
ceases to dwell within its definition. Do I

cast judgment on a song skittering and sputtering
out if I’ve never heard it before, if I can’t carry

a tune in my head or a fish on a line? The sun
parts the sky in a way up here I never imagined

or learned it could. What’s left of the sky
curves back around the lake and a single spark

from across the bay stands in as something greater
than itself, I’m sure, but my body aches from

not sleeping and my mind cannot trap a single
thing in its teeth. Certainly there’s a better

way to say everything or anything—certain,
sideways, torn open, and the fish I dropped

from the line (I dropped a thousand times now)
fries in a cast-iron skillet on the gas stove while

the sour beer grows more and more sour. In
your sleep a few weeks back, you said you

were dreaming and then you laughed and rolled
over and the street traffic on the lower peninsula

continued, but the lake was the only noise
here and the linen closet opened and closed

on its own. Someone in the woods hallelujahs
to the thought that the earth beneath our feet

is all carved out. It will make sense to fill the place
where all that copper once was. Science dictates

the purpose of hollowness and what air means
to the soil’s underbelly. A grip, a grasp, a lock

of hair along the baseboard’s chipped paint.
Like a building with the roof taken off, distraction

becomes an inevitable disaster: the snow piles up
along the walls, billowing from the windows,

a pure form of pollution if such a thing even exists
at this time of day, at this time of history. And

as our concept of history changes under the influence
of wind and weather, I become tied up in disregard

for most everything that the eye can see. This is all
wistful thinking, I admit. This is all human nature

has known all along, but there are of course a million
ways to skin an adage or put a cliché to sleep.

The Northern Lights bookmark the sky. It’s certain that
something in the air or the wind will change us: the skin

cells end up elsewhere and we disappear into someone
completely different. I did not invite the phenomenon

known as a marked tree. Disaster was an imagination gone
wrong. Instead of living through another, instead of years

falling into a leaf, our daughter outgrew the weeds
in the yard before we knew even her name or where

even ended and odd began. A thought does not make
water spring up from a well. Myths start somewhere:

the trees have always had limbs, the rivers have always
had mouths that spit a question back at a question. Our

daughter grows like that very question: she invents music,
sounds, words—water finds a way—and a bird

cannot be anything more than itself anymore. Our
daughter grasps the ground with her fist: the grass

goes with her, of course, and what we are left with:
this little patch of space where we build a house. I did

not imagine that her birth would require a whole new
vocabulary. I did not know that fourteen lines would

not be enough to contain what we always knew was true
but were too ashamed to ask. The cornfields open

up, the sun grows dull in their glow, and the senses switch
places with each other. The floor makes more sense

for sleeping at times—the bed becomes a tiny field after
a while. Language provides a ground to stand on: the pine

tree exists because we call it that. There is no name for the
smell of the sap on the back of your hand. There is only

the reinvention of light stitched solidly to the night sky. A
train, somewhere, comes to a stop and the vines draw

near. Pigeons fill a barrel—it might as well be a sycamore
to them. Necessity never needs us. I’ve known this all along.
 
 
 
 
 



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