Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Poetry By Cliff Saunders

Cliff Saunders has an MFA in Creative Writing from The University of Arizona. His poems have appeared recently in Serving House Journal, Five 2 One, Avatar Review, Rumble Fish Quarterly, and Whale Road Review. He lives in Myrtle Beach, where he works as a freelance writer.


Yearning for unity, I whistle at the county fair
at just the right time and the hunt begins

for a bridal kimono. I baffle gulls everywhere
with nursery rhymes. It’s what I do.

For the first time, I need to strike a swimsuit
with a biscuit because I feel alienated,

anxious as a blocked artery. Crying and scared,
I thrash like a fish among rows of crash victims.

I bounce past three sisters beating the street
with Christmas trees but see no clouds

just over the horizon. I topple a barricade
of jellyfish and slip by a little robot

ruined by a mud ball. Along the way,
I collide with echoes of immaculateness.

Such snow and ice I have never seen!
I finally feel like I am alive again, soul

of blue and still in love with the wind.
Am I some rabbit hole? Some pumpkin king?

I’m just elated that great hair blooms
in every sea. As clouds gather, I finish

covering roses with metal whistles.
I rise before the storm gives voice

to its grief and reach for the sacred:
a glass of ice clouded by blue acid.


The sun is coming toward the abyss like an angel
illuminating a world without words. So it begins.
I flex my emerging cloud warrior and think
of owl myths, of a wild sea so secret that

children can’t make themselves invisible.
I bond with the changing tides creeping up,
but summer keeps filling me with wind, then
spins away like a football on a soccer field.

The landscape burbles, awaiting its first chapter.
The fog comes dropping more slowly through the heavens.
I search for the son of Poseidon in a young girl’s eyes
but can’t hold her on the hill where satellites stop

and honor the bird songs of the dispossessed.
Along the canals, I collect (another one!)
crisp, sweet chestnuts, red before a storm.
I enter a season of grief carrying lionfish

and justifiably proud of the leaves frozen inside me.
As always, I collide with a piano because it’s gone green.
I have nothing to hide but the machete of dementia.
Yes, I’d rather eat rats on a jungle island

than a serpent’s tooth feel sorry for me.
I am not going to be bullied by God and his merry men
who stutter. I couldn’t mourn, or the dead rest,
if mountain lions lost faith in themselves.

I need help, for the planet itself wants to die.
It’s snowing in the lap of a child and nowhere else on earth.
My heart is whistling in the wind like a hot pot
of pawpaws, persimmons, and soft lemons.

Should I dump a boatload of clich├ęs in the Minnesota River?
Should I start a risky mirage? Repeat after me:
The shelter of memory goes dark in June.
The door to knowledge is losing its fur.


I hate my grass, and it hates me
more than a pink skirt on a witch.

How can I get a deeper shade of blue
in my lawn? I’m just totally lost.

The lizard in the house has created
a conspiracy against me.

The shuddering beast wakes me
with his big mouth while pondering

an afternoon of drift and mastery.
As the lizard lands with a thud

on the floor, I pursue a giant snail
around the edge of the porch,

but my heart is driving me nuts,
and I carve it up into toothpicks.

This is my home—I could turn
into an old putter, an abused

French mastiff, a hard autumn,
a newly opened book.

For a sweet few hours, I probe
the batting cage of the self

with a restless intellect, then
ride off into the real world

on a bicycle wrapped in mink.
Just doing my job, man.


Once upon a time, there was a story that took 2,000 years to create. It was a beautiful snail
that gave life to the imagination. No doubt, it was about slaves eating gills to survive. No
doubt, it was about the fruit of ancient Pompeii. Was that a brown map on its back or a big
moth? It was the best kiss, it was an act of devotion, and why was it there? Because the doll
of stone bled water and killed a dream, too. There’s more to this story than an apple staring
at its own end. It began as a parade and ended in flames on the tidal flats. Yes, it was a long,
hot, lonely road into the forbidden town of amputees. It just moved by its own force up a
children’s book like a glove. Pulling the whole story together was a top-secret balloon full
of Olympians. It blew my mind, listening to them sing of the animals that stand like granite
in the rolling hills. Throwing bread on the water, I expected such a lonely word to outshine
the sun, but the truth of the story made me cry with its street of vibrating strings. I thought
it was forever a frontier so weird it was otherworldly. I wanted to write a story of chess, to
utter light and taste no hint of time. It was my idea to have one last moment upon a time when
the door of spring found itself in the twilight. Once upon a time, when the world was a tornado
of words chugging back to life.

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