Cliff Saunders has an MFA in Creative Writing from The University of Arizona. His poems have appeared recently in The Wayne Literary Review, Pedestal Magazine, The Aurorean, Pinyon, San Pedro River Review, The Main Street Rag, and RipRap Literary Journal. He lives in Myrtle Beach, where he serves as co-coordinator of The Litchfield Tea & Poetry Series.
BOOK OF HIPPOTHOON
The sun is coming toward the abyss
like an angel illuminating a world
without words. So it begins.
I flex my emerging cloud warrior
and think of owl myths, of a wild sea
so secret that children can’t
make themselves invisible.
I bond with the changing tides
creeping up, but summer keeps
filling me with wind, then spins away
like a football on a soccer field.
The landscape burbles, awaiting
its first chapter. I search for the son
of Poseidon in a young girl’s eyes
but can’t hold her on the hill
where satellites stop and honor
the bird songs of the dispossessed.
I enter a season of grief carrying
lionfish and justifiably proud of the leaves
frozen inside me. Yes, I’d rather eat rats
on a jungle island than a serpent’s tooth
feel sorry for me. I couldn’t mourn,
or the dead rest, if mountain lions
lost faith in themselves.
Repeat after me:
The shelter of memory goes dark in June.
The door to knowledge is losing its fur.
ON HIGH ALERT
There’s tension nipping at the fence,
determined to not be forgotten.
There’s a star already bearing fruit
on this night of hardship,
adding to its ambitions
by eavesdropping on neighbors.
I wouldn’t be the person
I am without its light.
There’s a snake living
nearby, besieged by fire.
Why mourn its first victory?
There’s a target on my back
that’s a work of art, that
keeps me in a state of shock.
There’s melancholy, fear,
despair in the tooth of a teacher.
There’s snow on these hills,
swayed by mystery and finally
healed, giving grace and
teeming with secret tunnels.
Wait long enough and the shoe
of a giant will walk on thick ice.
BEAM OF INFILTRATION
All dies when a little rain
slides across this revolving door
in a crowd. All in limbo
as fire rains down upon shark teeth
meant to comfort the living.
Send the word, send the word,
everything is crawling
with new honeybees! The children
just know when a storm is coming.
All the pieces of grief in the sky.
All the noise that women
cannot afford to bury.
All’s drowsy since the disappearance
of a circus long, long ago.
All comes up empty when
swan boats hold too much power.
Let go of the world
and the shame of rain in May.
Let statues stand in 12-foot graves.
All needs fixing, even the one sea
that moves like medicine, even
snow lost in the beauty of a wall.
All the field and white
with no envy. All that rain
where its mouth creates blue light.
Never too late to be a beam
of infiltration. Just do it! Just do it!
THE TORTURED ARTIST
In her room she feels
like painting every shred
of her life a well-chiseled red.
She loves that blue edge
of cypress in her art,
finding it tricky
in winter, shorebird
rookery all but gone.
She knows her shadow
sings for her, always,
singing to black midwives
in their gardens
of lingering pain.
She can’t control tomorrow
as she bids farewell
to Sparkle City.
Flying above her is the moth
of promise that her body
once swooned over.
Yes, she’s an addict,
but she can write
both body and soul.
In her book, a drama
of love, she has a mad crush
on a man who captures
molten glass in his backyard
with his mouth.
She sees that the forest
hurts the most when
it breaks into autumn.
Approaching a turtle
tangled in the hair
of a grand old lady,
she strokes its tongue.