Heir Apparent

Issue #24: June 2014

This is a Frame | Adam Clay

A poem is occurring every moment

for example

that fluttering of mute flies

—Mario Santiago Papasquiaro

Most mornings like this one,

silent and sudden and then

you’re awake

in a simple and dull sort

of beginning: the traffic

light along the edge of the couch

loud enough to mask

the intruding sun.

How to be noticed

in a world eager for absence,

eager for endless urging?

One’s senselessness

a surprise enough:

the sound of the newspaper landing

on the lawn is enough

for the birds of another year,

stopping over silently,

moving on. I don’t like them,

I don’t like the railroads,

the ambulances, the constant

noise of night worth little

less than its weight.

But what to do with the opposite

of nothingness? Can night

fill in the space

a sentence should?

You know what I mean:

the sometimes dull

collision of words

rolling around

void of success or even

the temptation of. Sometimes

I sing a sentence out loud,

then wonder if anything has escaped

my mouth. Today somehow

felt like the middle of something.

The roads gleamed up from the ground

and remained in the eye long after

they had been left behind. I rarely

hold anything in the mind

the way I held those roads.

Strangers waved


Neighbors looked up, as if

expecting just one traveler that day,

and as if that traveler was me. Even

the cardinals and yellow finches

and flowers paused

in those windless moments. As I pass

through the house in the night,

I feel like an unwelcome stranger,

a traveler on the other side of the world,

a place no one looks up from,

where the insects

mistrust movement from a mile away.

It’s startling how one’s perspective

of self can morph

moment-by-moment into

another self altogether. The news

remains what it is,

the type of living only night can explain.

And as for framework?

We think of beginnings, like crawling

or rolling over into

the light. Sometimes my voice

boards the airplane before me,

exists free of the weight we all eventually

learn to regret and forget.

An attempt at weather borders the window,

the window allows one’s life

to pass more slowly than it should.

Like a horse track free of horses,

these days are a simple type of worry:

without a pause, we notice nothing. Without

nothing, the pauses precede

the notions we have of ourselves.

I speak

and then as if I’ve spoken,

you speak

and the walls echo the sound

back. I didn’t mean to look down

on the seasons and their sense

of reality. Nothing could make

more sense than returning to boredom

like these moments.

Tomorrow scatters the wind

like a destructive force

of front matter. Our neighbors

move elsewhere—the sun

manages forgiveness

of the sky

or at least that’s what its color

might suggest if a notion

could be accurate.

There’s a pause

in imagining a thought

we have free

of each other.

If we can’t sleep,

then why not?

If we can’t allow the moments

to scare us back into our skin,

then what point is the skin,

its translucent vision?

I rattle off a date as if my memory

never went bad, as if the days return

the dust to myself in a saddlebag

of noise and revelry. These days

the flags stay

at half-mast. Why bother lowering

and raising the exasperating quotient?

I allow this beginning

as if there’s a point

on the train platform in which none

of us will be able to

stay any longer. Some days

might feel like the strangest

song imaginable. No one’s going

anywhere, but there’s

a bit of joy hidden in inaction: like

laughing for the sake

of sadness. Or like swimming

in a river with no sense

of upstream. The weather takes

a turn for winter

deep into spring. I could see

my hand in front of my face,

and now I can’t.

Somewhere another siren

in the night, another bed


It’s too easy to think of shapes

in an abstract

sense of the world:

soon all words

will evade definition,

sense-worthy or not. The days

are worth waiting for,

a bite to eat, a meal to rush through.

Surely some moments of speech

burn upwards

in response to the sky, like sense

existing free of those who pause

long enough to notice it. Often

we don’t imagine how or why

the world could be presenting

itself in such a fragmented manner.

I’ve lived here a long time, much

longer than two years. It’s amazing

how the body can be so many places

at once. No one says I want to grow

up to stand on that train platform

on a Monday shortly before my

thirty-fifth birthday.

It’s good no one

talks like that. To think of each

day as a peculiar one

would be lawful, merciful, holy,

inexact. There’s something

to be said for perfection:

like a couplet, it’s symmetrical

and certain. I’ve heard talk

of the sky outside today—it exceeds

even disastrous expectations. It’s over-taught,

over-considered. Its unfurling

becomes costly in these calmly

shredded moments. The trees manage

kindness toward one another. One along

Broadway and Third

was split open. Penny

asks what happened to it,

then asks

if we can live

inside of its broken trunk. I suppose

any question one might ask

could be surrounded or surprised

by the innocence implicit in it.

Strangely enough,

solitude can be a kind of currency,

like the way the clouds

disrupt the sky with their tiny

rafts void of color,

soundlessly. At times when

driving through the countryside,

I’m amazed at how few

flowers I can name. And then

I think of the trees as if I’m not the only one

passing through this world,

no words

fit for my mouth. As if tornados

only exist in August, you wonder

what month it might be right now.

We lie on the grass

and consider the sky

from a low vantage point.

Now I pause,

think the news is unbelievable

and it is:

doors opened where

might we say we were when it

all unfolded?

Soon it’s raining when

it ought not to be:

the clouds grit their teeth,

the newspaper ends up

down the street, in a drainage

ditch. The aisles we follow

blur into blue.

And what else is meant

aside from the exploding pops of sky

reflected in the eye of a child?

I wish a sonnet could contain

any day in its perfect grip.

I marvel at the joy of containment—

what won’t fit simply ceases to exist.

Idealized or boiled down to a simple nod

toward the dark side-street

of whatever town you happen

to find yourself in. It’s a small life

we have on our own, some think. Others don’t

bother processing even the dull fact of morning.

Where do you

fit in? Like an outdated catalogue,

a season reaching past its climb?

For weeks, it seems, you’ve

memorized the patterns of each day,

as if the act

might remove you from the passivity

of supposing, not enough


for the daylight hours left. Like our bodies

closer to each other, merging

into a single voice, the parting

puzzles us even more. Language

never transparent enough for me:

hidden by syntax, the meaning

of a word lost,

tucked into the folds

of the earth. I spent

hours interrogating

the sentences I thought

before I spoke them. Inside my head,

there’s a lack of sense,

which I know

you already know,

but saying it makes it as real

as the headlights cutting

through a bedroom night.

Who could believe or stand by

what ideas

they promise? In birth,

we’re assuring a future

worth existing in and for.

The doors lock

surely. The thought

of a cloud,

maybe some grass washed

down into the sewers. We don’t

care what the city

might think. In fact,

we don’t

think a city

exists, like borders

and their organization

is fumbling enough for a day

we remember, forget again.

Like a song from another time,

we are free of ourselves,

of what our arms

trace and retrace. If my sense

of love is worth a life outside

my own, then

these moments are worth

themselves or more.

Growing tired,

the days yawn toward us,

wonder how long we’ll persist

recalling one single thing;

I recall another memory

altogether. Would the melding

of the two somehow be reality

exacted, as if our memories

are two separate sentences snaking

through each other? There’s little

to say in observing consumption:

we might as well

not be there.

The sky can seem insanely unreal

so we laugh until

the inside of our laugh is a deep mistrust

of the disturbing things

we do.

Are you okay

with missing a meal

for the sake of the rocks and their calling?

What are you outrunning?

Now the light grows less casual,

more ominous. Patchy frost

in the forecast is such a minor

disturbance, the memory of where

one might have stood,

the way the grass was cut

it might have been a painting. The dullness

of perfection at times is desirable:

just imagine a cup of tea

or bourbon or coffee,

and it’s there in your hands

so suddenly that your awareness

almost makes you spill it. And the

dirt holds

more than you’d like

to think, or that’s what the glance

of a stranger might suggest:

the sky an inkblot of nonsense:

most holidays

are forgivable long enough

if they disappear for even longer

than the time they take. It’s easy

to imagine another outcome

running recklessly through

the night, and soon

there’s a mirror for each

thought. An object

looked at this way:

does it depend

on the point in which it enters?

In which it forgets it was

seen? The grass green:

I know the rain won’t

last, the long summer

isn’t far off. But

I try to capture it

like an idiot, like

bait lost in the waves,

but further back

into the land, the river crosses

and past a city of questions:

the skies earn their color,

the quilt you made floats off

into the air.

When you think of a piano,

I know you think of a swamp

meant for holding back the land: the dry

skin, the lamplight

from your bedside table,

there’s a desirable blurring

and a blurring that boredom

slips its knot through. The only residents

here are upstaged

by the soil: recollection

becomes a fragment of itself:

likeable, laughable,

hindsight from the back of a horse

looking toward the straight line the horizon

promises. And what

then? What will music maintain

when language cannot? Sometimes

I imagine departing

for that stretch of trees,

a single book

or two could be enough.

The fireflies refuse

this late season:

abandoned pockets

and the curtains drawn

against the breeze

and the way it floods

an acre.

The way a sentence can fall apart

in your hands is a wonderful thing.

There’s more than one way

to take the world apart:

either way, outcomes

believe in our actions: the blackbirds

all fly away but one:

the morning remains well

through the afternoon,

and the flags are nowhere

near half-past: they catch the birds

in their unfolding,

they release them to the sky.

And what worth assigned to the stars

in the blue of day?

Were we to part the trees

and find an ocean,

would we be more surprised

than we find ourselves

now? We drive toward

a point on the map

and the time takes

us too—slowly, there’s

a beginning at play.

You are the entire state,

a hand. No one knows

the source of illumination,

but we accept the light in the same way

we accept each day: with weariness and worry.

The salvaged detonators ended up

elsewhere. But what if they had stayed

in the same place? Would anyone have feigned

surprise? Thunder struck, and Penny

thought it was a volcano, though

it was a miracle

it wasn’t. I hear the lakes

are still frozen in Minnesota,

and the mosquitos in Louisiana

block out your vision when they fly by.

It makes sense

when repetition doesn’t. It won’t be long

before the streetlights

become a luxury,

a gallon of water how many times

a day? The gutted apartment

buildings unnerve me enough

but it’s momentary

and not before sleep. What

last night kept you awake

or has your memory

been eclipsed by the exhaustion

of the dandelions? You don’t

need to be hill-bound to know

how a city can empty

out slowly until it’s mistaken

for heaven. Before the days

are built, they’re before us:

a party that no one’s

invited to. And like lights

we fumble toward are forgotten

more easily than recollection: rain,

no rain, steampipes filled

with steam. After a while everyone’s

wearing a suit and the doors

seem to open by themselves. Boredom

like a black bird

roosts heavily on the branches

of this tree.

You get your haircut

in your sleep: the rain runs backward

to the sky, and the rivers

mirror constantly. I suppose

we could visit some faraway

place, see the inside of a temple,

avoid the civil war happening

at that moment.


I do not understand, but I’m trying

to. And as for other explanations

of nonsense, we close

our eyes to the clouds,

but they remain there: the rain, though

is elsewhere and our minds

go there too. I love

how even

free of retribution we wonder

if we should

give thanks to something or someone

for the endless ebb

and slowness of days.

Here in the bluegrass,

I’d like to catch a train to downtown

Versailles and sit outside on a street corner

and wait for you

in that blue dress

to walk by. I guess most everything

is the translation of something else:

I keep track of words,

ideas, without knowing origin.

Why bother with notations meant for skywriting?

Remember the parade that happened

for no-good-reason? Remember the stars

that seem to hang below the sky? We kept

going for walks, not meaning to. The walks

took us with them

and with enough silence,

the ants ceased

noticing us. I suppose

there are words

for what this feels like:

a life never-to-be. I’d be lying

outside if I had enough sense,

but my dreams have mistaken

me for someone else. I’d like

to plant a seed in the ground

and stay awake to watch

it grow up through the soil

and bloom

into something worth remembering.

Sure we sleep well

for a few hours, dodging

night the only way

we know. What

did you say you loved

before the grass growing

along the edge of that hill over there?

The impression

I was under was that it would

be less sudden, more like water

rising slowly up to the backdoor

over the course of a dozen years

or so while you watch out front

for any sign of change. Some days

I walk away from words

and when I return,

it’s strange to think

where the mind’s gone:

the humidity no longer

hides in the full trees;

it triggers the memory

of a stranger’s face or the solitude

of a morning stolen away

or forgotten just long enough.

There’s probably

a reason the way we imagine

ourselves will dissolve slowly.

In these days

grace doesn’t really have a home:

look how clumsily I unload

the dishwasher, mop the floors,

take the trash out through the mud.

Fireworks in March

for no good reason, though

maybe my mind

has mixed the months:

it’s all one day happening.

Sleeping through coffee feels

like a conundrum

of a dream, the engine

falling right out of a car.

Should listening take the place

of movement, the wind

will evolve into an elsewhere.

Daily, there’s a self-imposed

exile, but it’s never been clear

what you’re separating yourself

from. Like the route you drive

each day could make a difference.

Life a bicycle is different from

a car. Like running into a thunderstorm,

sand and glass blowing into your

eyes would deliver

you from deliverance.

At some point

syntax falls away from the idea

it once attempted to contain.

There was a time before

we said much of anything

worth much,

but it was a quality

in one another

we both admired gravely

that we continued on

so as to remain

idealized in the minds

of one another

and those who happened

to stumble into

our patient unfolding.

Over time, this silence

became its own

type of language. I paid

attention to detail

in such a debilitating

way that the world

would not disappear—

nothing could

cease its existence, even

if my memory of the object

died in the night.

I told you these things

and more,

certain words

come as easy as breathing,

and breathing complicates

the living we do between.

Each one

I’ve known has opened

over time—refusing

to do so would simply

mean a disconnection

of sorts. The river makes the trees

sway and the swaying

is a type of forgetting. Suppose

toying with memory

is all life really is?

It’s amazing

how even the most basic

thought can paralyze

a day, the bats

flying overhead at dusk,

and we have faith

in their return,

all the stops

and starts of day as if the days

provide some kind of logical

notion of night. Some days,

the flowers descend from the sky

around us; their desire

to touch the ground might

be masterful if it wasn’t

so terrifying: we blink

and something else is gone,

something else arrives. I walk

out into the front yard, bourbon

in hand, and find silence

in each footprint of grass,

fire prepared but never lit.

My daughter set a tiny table

for dinner; I sat crowded in a seat

meant for her, wondering what

had happened up until that moment

to bring me there. The nights are filled

with apples: I take one from the fridge

when I can’t sleep, pace between

the rooms slowly, looking for something,

though I know deep down inside

there’s nothing I’m really looking for;

I miss the child in my arms,

the birds insane

with beauty.

Tomorrow’s Decoration Day

and in silence we mourn

more than we wish to:

the birds that don’t return,

the airplane that skitters

the runway, the ocean

retreating from itself. How a room

can change depending

on light isn’t a conversation

worth having.

Or should we

gather up sticks, build

a fire, and hope to

see ourselves in it? It should

be easier to define the days

by the lack of light, the silence

of the streets in the morning

on a holiday, nowhere

for breakfast, nowhere open

to patch a flat tire or patch

the sky

into a quilt worth

remembering. This town

exists without fire

escapes, without fires

most of the time,

though sometimes the sunrise

is as catastrophic

as catastrophe can be. I don’t

want to mistake

the news

for the news,

but blame me from whatever

perspective you’d like to

take. Plate covers

off the light switches,

the paint drying slowly

in the dull heat of late-May.

My mistakes could

be anyone’s but who among

us has a guide

that’s not filled with drastic

measures, moon-heavy phrases?

One has to pause at the end

of anything and wonder

to keep from losing the mind.

The doors do not lock

or are not locked,

as certain as uncertainty:

the paragraph is too tidy

to contain the mess left

behind: continue

grouping, organizing,


and forgetting, should we?

Or should we devise a new path

through a familiar place of


one you knew in dreams

well enough? Words aren’t

enough. A phrase isn’t

either, but the space

a body holds in any moment

is a marker of something greater

than ourselves.

The streets we take

all point westward,

and there’s an allowance

I’m getting used to,

accepting, and slowly

learning I won’t understand.

In the day

we can reinvent

sound with such ease

that the world becomes


riverbanks filled

with songs and sand.

Another bridge

falls into another river, yet

Goldenrods and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers

along the peripheral vision

of a child:

no words yet for the things

she sees, but the images

maintain their own heaviness:

a cemetery filled with golden

light, the flowers

growing less sure

of themselves in the wind,

the rain, and the sun setting,

rising in a city collecting noise.