Behind the wisdom that, when chased
by a bear, one need not run
fastest of all the prey but rather faster
than the one who limps, say, or the one who loses
wind mere steps into the chase, we mean
to assume something of the bear:
its speed or its unwavering will to eat.
For you, every moment anticipates a catch,
and then the slow and brutal work of consuming
the earwig, mosquito, bee; and, consumed,
that squirming little thing takes shape of you
—and you, its: you, bug bits. I drive
the same circuits of road on winding repeat and lack
a mind for sight, and am something else:
floodlight above a stadium, showering
the silky beams onto ball players that,
from this watchful height, seem to crawl
baseward for a run. Or else I’m the swelled throat
of a chorus frog in swampy song, darkly crouching
among the black gums. And I’m driving, I think,
toward you and, with you, to the moment the web
nearly ruptures, flecked with a new victim:
the throttle and startle in the trap, the one caught
struggling to outpace the shape of its fear.
Fair Game, Forrest
I half expected the man at Cactus Cantina to have
spider legs when he stood up. He said, Watch my table,
please, and we, F, said yes. You know asked nicely
I’d do anything. The borders of our ordinary, loved world
dissolve: a magnolia flings off its own perimeter
as flowers blister up its branches. The other man I saw
on my long walk looked about to wade into the walls
of his own stone-closed yard. Turns out he was
simply clipping weeds. The Cantina bathrooms are kinda cool, if
impossible to find. If you need an absent wife, I’ll be
your wife. Magnolia, ordered only to itself, approaches magnolia
even as its bark bursts out, the change all inward:
estranged by its obligatory bloom, it cudgels from inside itself
an ordination. I want to be closer to you: how unlike
and odd of me. The man stood up and nothing
happened. He went to see his wife, who was so sick
she had to leave. He came back. He said he would. Nights before,
we saw the ball game. Our team hit a winning run
right when all my hope ran out. All in all a normal game.
The ball almost went out of play. When you said, Watch
to see if something happens, I did and it didn’t and did.
The morning I saw Jesus
in the char marks on my bread,
I noticed that my hair lacked sheen
when, darn, I’m trying to land
Hair you could see by if you cut
my head off and used it as a lantern.
I lifted ritzy clarifiers from the grocery store
in a glowing act hope (I hid
them in my bag behind a box of capellini).
But the hair stayed dull as ever. My mother
blames a diet high in carbohydrates,
which, she has on good authority, causes
certain systems in the body to inflame.
If I die between my fingers
getting lighter in the aisle
and the wooden box in which I prove
my guilt, then, Christ, I’m toast.
I want better hair, a better body,
but continue noshing daily on my bread
even when the other day I grabbed a nibble
and from the cupboard rose a dizzy cloud
of moths which, I take it, nest
in products made from wheat.
Could and Would
I was barreling up the freeway on one of my normal routes when
I nearly scraped, going eighty-five, two cars’ flimsy sides, then palmed
left for the road that flanks the one that flanks the one with the house
that just had all its dead shrubs pulled. Truthfully, I want to put my tender
heart in a blender. Instead, I do my thing and nearly smear my guts
all over eastbound I-495, tires screeching on the merge. I’m so lonesome I
could puke. Another love substitute: I roast red peppers clutched in tongs
above an open burner. When they’re black and singing like a whippoorwill
(you can hear it: a pinched and wobbly whine), they’re placed into a paper bag
by me, the one who’s yearning, until they cool, when they’re taken out
for skinning, pulpy in the hands of that passive, gloomy lover (me again).
And when she gets a little heavy-handed with the whole fruit thing, she drops it
in a compact little Cuisinart with just a touch of acid and pulses, pulses, pulses.
(Okay, enough.) When my head spins so fast my lid might blow, I take another
drive, tearing over tongues of road, down one of which that house stands
like a single, solitary tooth stripped of gum down to the root, in a mouth
that’s otherwise devoid of teeth: alone but nonetheless designed to eat.
— Clare Hogan is a poet and teacher from Maryland. She holds an MFA from the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan, where she won a couple awards but also didn’t win a lot more.