Adam Clay

Three poems by Adam Clay


Strange and sudden how the first chaos
of a day tightens and unspools like a thread
along the edge of the childlike trust
I feel for my immediate thoughts. Like egrets
lifting from the field of memory,
they manage their determined drift
with no arrival or destination in mind. Sensory
likely intuits a certain kind of risk
one takes in the twists and shallows
we imagine slowing to a sudden swift
stop. That day did we drive past a burning silo?
Or was that what seemed to be? Resistance
to my fate thumps like a cello’s bruise
running down the cracked branch of a spruce.


                      —after David Diao’s This Way Out 1

Water the color of fatigues and only
one tint. Over there: a line transported across time
from some other place, and above the water
a bird has turned itself into an arrow pointing east
but too far over the sea for the citizens
to follow its edge to another land,
a place where the green sea will make no more sense,
even in recollection. In the logic of this world,
the harbor’s on the west side of the peninsula,
no boats in the water, which makes one think
they have gone the wrong way across the landscape.
The planet is flat, and they will not find
their way back. What is that blue stain
on the city’s east side, a fire that fits into a pattern,
burning like a balloon filled with paint,
dropped from the eye? How not to
see the futility of the self in the absence
of the boats, the cars, the bodies? This absence
is the bird unseen, the acceptance of the sea’s color,
the blue plume of smoke from the corner where
you used to walk your dog, from the part of town
where you neglected the crystalline air of your youth.


And landscape scales
woody debris

highly fragmented
parcel of crown

potential mineral
misleading terminology
held in limbo

we review this conflict
logs in particular

understory plant diversity
leaf litter
sensitive to human impacts

potential pathway of species migration
active fire
rare ecosystems

baseline for
blue oaks enhance
tree fall gaps

ADAM CLAY is the author of To Make Room for the Sea (Milkweed Editions, 2020), Stranger (Milkweed Editions, 2016), A Hotel Lobby at the Edge of the World (Milkweed Editions, 2012), and The Wash (Parlor Press, 2006). His poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Denver Quarterly, Tin House, Bennington Review, Georgia Review, Boston Review, jubilat, Iowa Review, The Pinch, and elsewhere. He is editor-in-chief of Mississippi Review, a co-editor of Typo Magazine, and a Book Review Editor for Kenyon Review. He directs the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi.