Charlie Clark

Tree Roots, 1890, Vincent van Gogh

Devil Takes the Air

A woman walks into her home carrying a bread bag filled with feathers.

She had been out collecting them on a night whose breeze smelled of lilac and urine

and was filled with just enough moon and train song she had to stop and listen hard

to hear the way her ears still moan. It’s a sorrow without significance to an appendage like the heart

mostly because she’s carried sorrow in the red bulbs of her cheekbones for fifteen years now.

It feels like the moment you learn the only things salient to your brother

are the ways that you have failed him,

yet he continues to call each Sunday at seven on the dot. Like that, over and over.

The woman enters her house recalling how her brother would remind her

it’s best to take two weeks to repeatedly freeze and thaw the feathers free of disease.

This day she pins them to the sheetrock raw. Bluejay, raven, cardinal, wren.

To her, in the light of the overhead, they curl the way the blues and tans in the final painting

by van Gogh do, like the bodies of snakes who have bloodied their noses trying and still

they cannot find a way out of the frame in which they remain so implacably mounted to the wall.

Editor’s Note: From a phone, the form the poet intends is best viewed in landscape.

Charlie Clark studied poetry at the University of Maryland. His work has appeared in The New England Review, Pleiades, Ploughshares, Smartish Pace, Threepenny Review, West Branch, and other journals. A 2019 NEA fellow and recipient of scholarships to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, he is the author of The Newest Employee of the Museum of Ruin (Four Way Books, 2020). He lives in Austin, Texas. 

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Spring 2021