Jeanette Clough

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,

two 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 rippling across

a Buddha's meditating body, serene,
detached from things material, reflecting all gifts

upon the giver. Scaled as the serpent
coiled into a 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 me porous gold leaf
the size of a postage stamp. Second day,
he does the same. Schooled as I am,

it does not occur to me to give the alchemy back.

Perhaps the eleventh day I see a small statue,
its skin fluttering gold, and understand

excess, fulmination: many before,
the many to come in rivers until rivers join.


Jeanette Clough's poetry appears in Denver Quarterly, Nimrod, Ohio Review, and Wisconsin Review. She is author of Cantatas (Tebot Bach, 2002).


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