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  • Long Walk, and: Anew, and: Ruin
  • Jo Ann Clark (bio)

Long Walk

Two shed skins of snake, withered and black. A cluster of wild strawberries, just ripened. An old-fashioned crackle-and-buzz emitting from electrical wires overhead; the steel frames shaped like gigantic paper-doll men from which the wires drape. Brambles, scrub pine, and blueberry bushes in the broad pathway of the pole-line. Flora and insects I have no names for. The sadness of this. Clouds gathering. The pathetic fallaciousness of clouds: cumulonimbus mammals, Polonian whales, a blind man’s portion of the elephant. Set back from the road, the well-kept cabins of summer people from downstate. Placards from the security firm that protects these homes from intruders. The temptation to break in. A horizon of distant hills. The lacerating mountain peaks they are remnants of. A flock of pastured sheep, fat, dirty, and white; an anomalous few the color of chocolate. A tiny perfect fawn curled dead in the ditch. A few other dead things. The memory of a lover harvesting roadkill for fur and quills that he would tie into magnificent fishing lures. A stirred longing. A few passing pickups and poorly mufflered cars. Whole families of deer in whose stillness or startled, startling escapes I am reminded how deadly I am. Maple trees, their trunks encrusted with the uncollected sap of past seasons. Tidy horse farms with whitewashed fences four planks high. Post-and-beam fences weathered and gray, post-and-stone-pillar fences; eroding ancient stone walls. The hands of the fathers [End Page 187] who built the stone walls. The hands of the daughters and sons who kept them up. Ineffable changes in the light at early dusk. Two llamas alert behind high barbed wire. The camels I mistook them for until I saw the sign. The hand-painted sign. The slope on Stonehouse Road that receives a signal for my phone. My son’s gruff child’s voice; his brusque greeting. The drawings he’s making on his new Etch-a-Sketch: the buildings of New York City, a whole person. His grave apology for being too busy to talk. This bull’s-eye reminder to me of his namesake: Hector’s archer in the Trojan War. An earlier source in Middle Hebrew that translates his name as gift. My husband’s voice. The sound of his accent I thought I had stopped detecting. The unmoored vowels as he delivers the domestic and local goings-on. The breaking news that, in the world at large, all is much the same: Darfur, Afghanistan, Washington, Iraq. A recounting of this walk’s astonishments that lose some wonder in my telling. Our son interrupting with a marvel of his own: the discovery that a mistake in a drawing can become a part of the drawing. His whole person’s foot and the mistakes that became its toes. The missed farewell as Stonehouse Road dips into a hollow. [End Page 188]


after “Desperados,” by Daniel Halpern

We were in love. No, we were above love. We were lovers. We were altogether outdoing ourselves doing it. And we loved it. If only we could keep this up, this otherly un-love for which, we contended, no one would ever be the wiser—or left

Wanting. Our fear (that what we had perfected would in time Grow wanton, ungainly) was self-fulfilled. And though no one Got left we were, each of the other, bereft. Who could’ve guessed? Not us. No, not us. Besides, we still had had each other. And besides

We still had each other. And we were not nothing. Not anymore. We had history. Something better than love which, let’s face it, Fewer repeat than learn of. So we started anew, we two. And we were brave in love, and true. Like never before.


Odd word, ruin. In poor light It resembles rain. Echoes rune . . . Magical symbol, something

secret. Look again and it returns to its own dual self: first verb, then noun—what’s done, done in, [End Page 189]

or is wholly past doing: faces ravaged as an empire, the bow string snapped.

Such artifacts attract. Always...


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pp. 187-190
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