In Island, Jeanette Clough invites readers to explore several beautiful and illustrious lands—from Los Angeles to Southeast Asia—while inspiring wonder and emotion through her rich use of language. Her poems capture not only the splendor of natural landscapes, but the passions and desires that run through us all.
If you sit by rivers long enough they will blend.
The trick is waiting for your pulse
to match the rhythm of earthly liquid,
veins to be the rivers of a bodys continent.
My lost sandal bumps against the boat dock.
A fisherman wades a few feet from shore
to catch what has already landed on my plate.
Every river here is muddy. These funnels
near the equator carry rainwater and waste
in equal suspension. The patterns scroll around curves
whose beginning and end look the same —
many came before, and many will come
in rivers until the rivers join.
Stone spires perforate the steaming foliage,
and growth dislocates its jaw. A new flavor
loiters in my mouth, its deep-throated name
ready to slide into the thick air. On my water bottle,
blue elephants shower spray from their trunks.
I pay the asking price to keep it.
Sweat runnels every crevice,
drowning common sense
in the compulsion to see.
A purple umbrella for shade, and yellow leaves
thin enough to breathe through
ripple across a Buddhas meditating body,
serene, detached from things material,
reflecting all gifts upon the giver. Scaled
as the serpent coiled into throne under him,
protected by multiple hooded heads swaying over his.
When he touches earth, his fingernails shimmer.
On the first day, the guide buys us porous gold leaf
the size of a postage stamp. Second day,
he does the same. I am schooled to collect souvenirs
& it does not occur to me to give the alchemy back
until perhaps the eleventh day when I see a small statue,
its surface covered with pieces of fluttering gold.
I begin to discern different styles of carved
elephants and gods. These have four thick legs
with room underneath for a pedestal fifth. Here,
divinitys stone wrist has relaxed beyond nature.
A white elephant soars into a dream
and wraps itself belly and legs around my car.
And above me now, the white plumeria.
I expect orchids and teak,
not this grove of star-blossoms
announced by emissary sweetness
in the moist air. Five creamy petals
thicken to a butter center, then
a thousand thousand times proliferate,
jostling into galaxies suspended overhead.
reaches the Buddhas immense, crossed
shins. I could brush my cheek against the fingers
draped earthward and tipped with gold. His chest
fills with incense. Ive seen it happen — when stones meditate,
they assume the shape of breath. Even the dullest pebble
can become the nipple erect on a gods soft breast.