Jeanette Clough

Jeanette Clough was born in Paterson, New Jersey, and now lives and works in Los Angeles for the Getty Research Institute. Her other poetry collections include Cantatas (Tebot Bach 2002) and Celestial Burn (Sacred Beverage 1999). Her poetry has received awards in the Ruskin competition, the Rilke competition, Atlanta Review, the dA Center for the Arts and the Los Angeles fin de Millennium competition. She is a certified open water scuba diver.

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Jeanette Clough

Publication Date: May 1, 2006

$16.95 Tradepaper

ISBN: 978-1-59709-073-5


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.

An excerpt:

Raga 1

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 body’s 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.

Raga 2

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 Buddha’s 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.

Raga 6

I begin to discern different styles of carved

elephants and gods. These have four thick legs

with room underneath for a pedestal fifth. Here,

divinity’s 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.

My head

reaches the Buddha’s immense, crossed

shins. I could brush my cheek against the fingers

draped earthward and tipped with gold. His chest

fills with incense. I’ve seen it happen — when stones meditate,

they assume the shape of breath. Even the dullest pebble

can become the nipple erect on a god’s soft breast.