The years of the locust tree
Split open with ease,
But I had no ax—
It was lost to the snow.
Let’s make up a story
Of how we arrived here.
Because of its ability to create,
The mind must do the opposite.
I always liked missing you,
Stirring the coals with only
The action of my mind.
To split wood, one must consider
The direction of the grain.
Sometimes the mornings
Remind me of how
Dickinson imagined Heaven,
But what of Heaven
Without the world, the dirt,
And the turn of the head
To a sound distant in the woods?
I doubt anything could diminish
The seasons when dwelling
Within the opposite. How we
Arrived here was never much
Of a story but we imagined
A path around the lake,
A narrative built from circumference,
And the trees we built
From molecules outgrew
The bounds we imagined for them.

Copyright © 2017 Adam Clay. “How the World Began” originally appeared in Poetry Northwest, Winter/Spring 2017. Used with permission of the author.


She’s in the desert
releasing the ashes of her father,
the ashes of her child,
or the ashes of the world. She is not

what she observes. The rare spinystar.
It does not belong to her. Bright needle threading
a cloud through the sky. There’s sun enough,
there’s afterlife. Her own body, a pillar of ash.
I fall to pieces, she says. Faithless

nimbus, faithless thought. In my life,
I have lost two men. One by death,
inevitable. One

by error: a waste. He wept
from a northern state,
hunger too cold
for human knowledge.

Once I was a woman with nothing to say. 

Never did I say ash to ash.
Never has the desert woken me up.
I said
who releases whom?

Inevitably, all have known
what the desert knows. No one
will count the lupine when I’m gone.

No one looks to the sun
for meaning. For meat
I’ve done so much less.

Cattle in the far basin, sagebrush, sage. 

I live in the city where I loved that man.
The ash of him, the self’s argument.

Now and then, I think of his weeping,
how my body betrays me:
I am not done with releasing.

Copyright © 2015 by Jennifer Chang. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 11, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.