June 18, 2015
In the swamp
the air shimmers.
In the swamp
I father my boy. How nervous
the rat in the maze
brushing soft nose
on cardboard walls. How nervous
our boy must be
in his tiny chair
in the big room
of boys and girls. Once,
I wasn’t this soft, thought:
they should just learn, stay put. Once,
I was a behaviorist. Now, I am a reluctant girl-dad.
He’s lucky people say, but he’s not.
His nervous brain, heart beeping. I just hope
he stays sweet. Some boys don’t. I think
about moving to the swamp, homeschool.
His bird bones, my heart.
My heart beeping. My heart
hurts, he says one night. It beeping
too fast. I struggle to write this.
I will never know whether he cared for the others
or ate dog food.
A love unknowable, untouchable. Who
Did a bad thing? Is this real.
He got shot and died. I saw Kevin, he says,
But means “Heaven.” In this family
We don’t believe in angels. Do we? Where
God is? Him is the moon? The blue blue sky?
Him is in our house? How
Him so big? This
An unknowable love: not the child who
grows up, takes flights, but
the one who lands, here, unmoored
who demands to be written without
treacle or sap. His bones
show. His history, a shadow. Where
did he get that scar? Why
my skin like that? Him
don’t know. Mommy
don’t know. Daddy don’t.
Making Sense of It
There are frogs that break their own bones to form claws,
and lizards that shoot blood from their eyeballs.
This is evidence of something.
So what should we do? Take an odd-but-not-unexpected turn
to the personal, brandishing our jagged little bones?
We could try out other facts. There’s a sea cucumber
that can liquefy itself, twist inside out and eject its guts
to poison enemies. Imagine what we could do with that one.
Tonight a breeze moves through the sidestreet garden,
rustling all the ferns together. Overhead,
a plane continually manages not to fall out of
the sky: an upturned, soupstained bowl of stars.
I’m on a bench by a garden and you’re god-knows-where.
It’s trite, laughable, and actually happening.
In a parking garage two blocks away,
the undergrad dance troupe is banging trashcans for drums,
stomping and shouting and their rhythm
really is impeccable. Wouldn’t you like to be here for that?
J.G. McClure holds an MFA from the University of California – Irvine. His work appears in Gettysburg Review, Green Mountains Review, The Pinch, and The Southern Poetry Anthology, among others. He is the Craft Essay Editor and Assistant Poetry Editor of Cleaver. See more: jgmcclure.weebly.com