Adam Clay
All Encounters Are Close Enough

It’s like this: plunging takes on a new allowance,
car lamps between houses forming their own alleys
of sun. Each day deserves a glow different
from the one before, but this demand
doesn’t stop an afterimage from becoming
the image itself: stark, taut, and wrecked
with beauty. Local time without locality,
what should we call it? When our words become
alien from the things they embody, the cattle
becomes the herder, the dog becomes
disappointed and stunted in mind
but not the body. Viewed from above, the saucer
catches what the cup should cradle as the waves
of road glide out past town, past the static
of daily life: the houses locked against the light. Take
a single letter from “hurtling” and the asteroid’s path does
something different. We knew it before we know it.

Vast Orchestra of Life

In this religion of thought, the mind returns
to itself like water finding water.
Middle week in flyover country
and what to find on the silent streets
of early morning, most everyone
gone to work, to school, the blades
of grass crushed and cut down
into perfect squares? From the sky, I imagine
it looks like nonsense, dogs penned in yards
and the birds perched within the chimneys,
their feet too delicate for landing—
they’ve evolved past sense like most animals
will if given the chance. Within the sound
of extinction is a silence one cannot imagine
or reckon with: like looking down
at a perfect rectangle of light rather than
up to the stars, their glow untouched as of yet.

Plainly Know

All riffs ripped off
and ripped from the sky—
eventually nothing
left to pioneer but luck
and grace. Between the dotted lines
of highway there lives a sense
found only in movement,
in imagining only words
for morning, evening,
and along the coffee saucer
of noon. I like how a misstep
becomes a way of forward,
a wave of forehead
opening to any possibility.
In a dream, you were in
an asylum and I managed
to find my way in
through normal protocols,
nothing smuggled in but
the first word and the last.

What to See Here

Traversing like a streak
of iodine on the skin—
what season lives
between the seasons?

I doubt my knowing
would amount to much
skin either way, like
wrecked horses in a field

waiting for a darker shade
of dark to arrive. Even
a brief thought of fathoms
void of color will distract

the mind from its current
predicament of noise:
the intimate like sandpaper
dragged through a nest of tar.

Pantoum Beginning with a Line from Alice Notley

When transferring a thought, the connectors and clauses
mean less than what one imagines they should,
as if one path exists for all thoughts to travel down
or as if what threads the mind together isn’t a thread

but means less than what one imagines it should,
a vessel for thirst standing in for what it contains.
At some point what threads the mind together
becomes heavy with the weight of its function,

a vessel for thirst filled not with what it should contain.
What to make of the outer shell hiding the inside,
becoming heavy with the weight of its function?
A word contains its meaning, yes, and more

than its outer shell. Hiding what it holds
transfers a thought, its connectors and clauses,
and a word contains its meaning, yes, and more
as if one path exists for every single thought to travel down.

Adam Clay is the author of Stranger (Milkweed Editions, 2016). His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Ploughshares, Georgia Review, Boston Review, Iowa Review, The Pinch, and elsewhere.