201.1: Lily Clifford:: At Each Cusp of Wheat & My Death & The Day Never Comes & She’s Standing in the House She Built 201

When I first read these poems by Lily Clifford, I responded: I'm going to resist the urge to tell you my reading. I felt that to tell my reading would be to reinscribe the author to Clifford, which seemed at best indulgent of my own narcissisms and at worst rather problematic. Or, as Clifford writes here, "each eye is called to sway, / again and back / the small quadrant of your desire for you." Instead of asking me to explain these beautiful poems as I read them, I realized that the poems were asking me to open myself and be receptive of them. These poems are sites of communication, yes, but a communication that happens through an insistence on listening rather than telling. I'm not told what to think by the poems; they ask me to listen and then think. I can't tell the poems what they mean; instead I ask if I can continue listening. And through this listening, I find myself pushed, pulled, and chopped apart and I don't even care if I will ever be able to put myself back together again. Andrew Wessels

At Each Cusp of Wheat


scythe and its course, you
dress its orbit lest it kills.

where each eye is called to sway,
away and again back –
the small quadrant of your desire for you.

and of course the iris, blankly so,
like the wheat and taking
before made to want – and always


& in the clouds such a tightness
so that they move afloat.

& this stirring from
the corner of each thing, a simmered by sun,
a finding-in
fists or eyelids, empty, parceled.



unable for the rapture,
the magnetism to be,
teacup overflowing with yellow.

embraces the corner with the feet,
that lazy predilection toward the white.

you, a cloud or germ – a bonfire.

how that parcel should have been you,
a figment you,
illusion you,
shelter.




My Death


when the parts don’t fit
           together what
      are you going
            to do
               but hope
            that people like it?



                  DR. says don’t
                    fool yourself
                         mister,
        most of my guys
        think
            it’s terrible

      if your brother was
                  here
            he’d know
             what not
               to say





The Day Never Comes


disease! this advancement or spread of the ease
of grief,
to the belief that nullifies it.
this notion to dispel it, a virus, a flow

as would transform you into strangers and lovers, friends of loss or grief –
our turn, too.

to revel and peak, brief for curtains that lift;
a blood clot similar to others can attract a new kind of reality.




She’s Standing in the House She Built


She’s got the soft hum of breath on her side, but she’s crying.
She’s crying the way we used to walk to the pasture, the way
she would walk in front of me, stopping to say be careful. The
way the house is dark, now, as if monotony results in beauty
and non-beauty, as if focused attention on the shadows might
make them go away. The if-I-was-a-girl of it strengthens my
case for light. The way I left a gift of a pillow, the way I’ve never
made a second-person out of you. Repeat your name for me.
Repeat the river getting bigger and then smaller again.