Letter to America by Clara McLean

One Poem

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Ghost Spaces

There is radiance in ghost
spaces, hanging in the air,

a vapor stain. The terns
knew it, circling

above the dead wetland,
tule, sedge and cattail

in one season gone to dust.
Even the yearlings knew it,

shimmer of their summer
tide marsh still rising

through the alkaline
cracks. This is the shape

of things in time.
Vast waterscapes breathed

in the bird heart,
their chemical memory strung

to vagrancy and flux.
The men saw a horizon

clogged with mud and tough
bulrushes, crust

of salt on the stalks,
a haze of nameless insects.

A billion teeming beings did not rush
to greet the railroad, dike and sump.

Their look was elsewhere.
After weeks of soaring, circling,

muscle, hunger,
they dropped from the sky in soft clots

their bones turning to a future
bounty. There is radiance

in ghost spaces that
still breathe and heave and fruit

with dust, shining back,
between tides, between

extinctions, the shapes of things
that were, or may have been.




Clara McLeanClara McLean lives and teaches in the San Francisco Bay Area. Earlier poems have appeared in Bird’s Thumb, By & By, Berkeley Poetry Review, and Foglifter, among others.
Header photo of cracked mud by rafaeleparente, courtesy Pixabay.

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