Jeanette Clough







Dante’s Riverbank


The woman in lace loves the soft smog that smudges every edge into reconsideration,


into making a try of confluence, like the water does, running between two green shores, or else thick with mud in a desert’s fresh-cut flash flood channel, not a flower to be seen.


The river that runs through her town is murky ­­­––

from doing no wrong, from doing no good.




On Dante’s riverbank, droves of them will sit on their hands

doing nothing.  Their mouths are taped shut and their feet

are gone forever, left behind in earthly caskets.  Torsos,


peg-legged, wobble on stubs.  Under the tape, the faces wear sticky smiles of eternally knowing but not telling.


A few cooperate for money.  Where is the wire — in the cuff of a boot?   Or threaded from the soft outer curve of breast


subcutaneously through the meat and under the nipple,

souring the milk of conscience, the needle’s entry

marked by a syringe piercing the long inches


of rounded feed sack, the vial resting just on top of the skin

ready to shoot blue tracer dye.




Part of her goes missing.  It wanders with hardly any shape, held responsible for everything that went wrong, that might have gone right, for not knowing.


She does not linger in the downtown hotel of hope.  When glass hits the pavement, it doesn’t come together again the same way.  She collects her particles, her bits of self,


making sure all of them are belted into the front seat

and drives where she, after all, realizes more can be done,


that the muscular angel in the passenger seat might not only want, but also, with his snowy wings and teeth, desire.





Obsessions emerge,


striated and hard. They dangle


in earshot, or warm on a chain


around the neck, their translucence


pared away to leave


a revelation of dragons, or perhaps


a radish.  The skill lies


in exposing the name inside


wearing itself as a trinket.



From Flourish (Tebot Bach, 2014), copyright 2014, Jeanette Clough.






Like fingers around the lungs —

non-breath, and constriction.  Also release


when I reach into that vacancy.


Perhaps I thought to fall freely into the void.


Instead I find myself grasped, gasping, no longer adding lengths

to my rope.


Alas, poor self.  Shall I tell stories about you?  Tattle

& gainsay?  Hearsay hobbles me.


Something cuts through, rattles in protest

then yields to an invasion of air, repeatedly.


Flighty and casual, this vital exchange:

an open poppy, and the same ruffled color.


I picture myself shouldering through the soil.


My bloom is said in many ways.



From Flourish (Tebot Bach, 2014), copyright 2014, Jeanette Clough.












Jeanette Clough’s poetry collection, Flourish, was a finalist in the Otis College of Art and Design and Eastern Washington University annual book competitions. She has also served as Artist in Residence for Joshua Tree National Park.



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