Poems by Clara Quinlan

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Dragonfly, Shelling

by Clara Quinlan

From Canary Spring 2014

Clara lives in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, where Longs Peak looms in the near distance and Coal Creek cuts dramatically across the land.

How silver clings to the dawn the rain

Stammering, its threaded wings
under the wind see we all hold on

with our many arms iridescent
larvae curled against the underbelly of pier,

magenta sheen, flecks of blue,
tiniest instance of

something I might walk toward
were I lost, were this water
across the anviled world to carry me
no longer

Its chitin shell with shape with eyes
emergent as it could be again in this stirring –

harmony soft of scraping leaves

soon dripping, sound
to be numbered and the tattered shore
radiant with the born

Come closer
as if this eased the possession

deliver yourself hapless
each falls into the lapping but for the one

in your palm, taut-winged, transmuting the light.




House Frame In November

by Clara Quinlan

From Canary Fall 2013

Snow passes through
the living room like sand spilling

from an unfolded hand.
The upstairs closet tucking its white

linens deep in each corner.
From the crest of the hills, trees dyed

with the last of autumn pour down,
host of barked wood shivering

behind these smooth beams,
a canvas for each room: browns,

grays surfacing to orange, the rafters
unable to quell the fire of

leaves taunting the gauzy dome
above. If we found the room

where first prints might appear, palm
the gathering snow (here, a stolen

beginning, the fundamental hour)
our flesh’s heat taken in by the floor,

could we then be blameless?
Space left above our chapped hands

an echo of what we once were,
we could rise from this much.




House Frame In November

by Clara Quinlan

From Canary Fall 2012

Snow passes through
the living room like sand spilling

from an unfolded hand.
The upstairs closet tucking its white

linens deep in each corner.
From the crest of the hills, trees dyed

with the last of autumn pour down,
host of barked wood shivering

behind these smooth beams,
a canvas for each room: browns,

grays surfacing to orange, the rafters
unable to quell the fire of

leaves taunting the gauzy dome
above. If we found the room

where first prints might appear, palm
the gathering snow (here, a stolen

beginning, the fundamental hour)
our flesh’s heat taken in by the floor,

could we then be blameless?
Space left above our chapped hands

an echo of what we once were,
we could rise from this much.




Night Walk

by Clara Quinlan

From Canary Fall 2012

And none save me
in shoes – fearless, the tendered arc
of the cricket from the grasses,

moon kernel, lunar zippering,
the white dog advances, astral, says
soon the snow, says always this

return, clusters of stripped birch
the debris, the sorrow left
upon the stammering breast. Shadows in

the gathered pines, wind-stirred;
across distant hills the forest fire as ruby,
as invitation, the only match to see by

in this untold room and then might I
find all that’s left willing? Here slight,
here gone, the heart the untenable,

traps the stars low enough
to gather – desire bestowed, unfaltering –
handful of glitter should I forget

these tracks, the field’s dark want,
ghosted delight beckons
the exceptional loss. Is the white dog

slight with tremble and released
to the point of intoxicant, mouth
breaking open, shutting,

breeze-stolen, pink-tinged ears –
white flame before me
unfastens the field and would that I

accompany her, surely a lumine witness,
the earnest needles of the dark
bowed, fraught with salvation.




Northing

by Clara Quinlan

From Canary Winter 2011-12

Isn’t the ice in the distance traveling,
doesn’t it know of my approach,

the red, jagged trees a painter’s stroke
sweeping from the highway, rushing over
each hill. This far, have I already come

without you, a faint disappearance
into black, brittle limbs

collapsing from fire, here
a turn to marrow, to my own interminable
exit; have I not coveted you, dark drifts

on the tongue, spine icicled, mindless,
my body endures, the scallops of mountains blued

without trees, the river’s green glass
advancing from the glacier, spilling against
the road, isn’t it cracking, isn’t it

heaving, when was I told to wrest the song,
pass through in mute, alkaline and silt,

breath’s vaporous fingers
a new hour, an unknown stage, the ice
far above and tremulous. When I place

my hand upon the chandeliered river
enter this: while there is still time, tell me

--

how might the end be spared? Hands
indulgent, bucketing all that is strewn
wild, trafficking your many forms, the barren
flesh sings, crystallized, trees tilt
and claw at the relics of light. Spooling up,
a congregation of
white butterflies from the grasses
render the air, demand reprieve against

the vast, the tundra
uninterrupted, glaciers yawning into kingdoms and how

might the slight wing survive?
To put my mouth upon

the prayer that keeps you
and devour, your fingers struck gold my love

--

with conquering. Let nothing come
between, our stride  thickened under

jagged bush, gnarled shoots
mask the creek we search for, we hear
as glass clinking somewhere into

collapse. You who know no end.
The earth will refuse, rocks caught

under sponged lichen beneath our feet as if
the ground should boil. Sky cobbled
in thermals insisting solitude. Give up

your small narrative as time measures itself
only in the empty space our bodies

cleave. A colony of Kittiwakes rises
from the broken black stalks, hip high,
syntax of wings scattering the luckless

vapors of cloud, do not mistake this
for mercy, joy you can attend, the vital damp of green

banished. Toward indulgence, the tendriled snow
atop the mountain cuts its host in faint bones.
Where bounty still abides, bring me

--

born from winter, a system of white mapping the flesh
unwanted, feathered and receding, how far

again should I have followed? You,

wealth of debris, gild the sutured room;
windtorn and willing, I hunger beyond frozen waters.




Palace of Unfinished Glass

Ice Climbing, Finley Creek

by Clara Quinlan

From Canary Winter 2014-15

Given to the lead smudges of trees,
capped in a struggling river,
                                             white, like a sponge,
collecting a bit of rock here and there, sucking
our limbs, parasite of the secret moon
as ghost. Into the far rebel pieces of cloud,
we advance;

                    lush sound, snow
collapses, trees shoot down their stars,
curtaining our view like splotches
on an old photo, when this glass fortress

          was never ours, never asked
for our arrival,
crampons gnashing the glacier’s crust,
packs crossed in hammer and adze, beak-nosed, and above,

                         mountain spring stunned into icicles
                         like baleen raked from a mouth,

wind wheedles through
wind, scarleting cheeks, chutes of alder
crimson against our backs

as strung from the ice-sapped rope
we ascend this barricade, each limb a wing, jacketed blade

pinwheeling into
dimples, depressions, irregular dents,

          up the rippling throat of ice, hammering,
would that we advance

bright and boundless
as the metal cranes of axes pocket the face, spate of scars,
screws splintering spider webs white

beneath ice’s surface, glacial milk, bleached sun
                              snow expanding like the sea

and even breath has silhouette,
water charming just below the planked river
as we search for what’s good:

green ice, sea blue,
iridescent scales crowding up,

haunches of deer
flashing, snow-clutched
to the knees –
                    at home, the dog’s water bowl
quartzed, porch door stitched in glaze –

under the impression this mirrored dome
is on the side we climb on,
loom of ice like a ship’s hull
                         we might reel in or

liquid baptismal reaching past the clouds or
cosmic bits, lucent shields, ice so vast
it is a ballroom, what can we
compass this into.




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