Three Poems by Laren McClung



They worked wood into a flank as tall as man
& then double-edge dressed it with obsidian,
glass stone fired from the volcano’s mouth.

Sometimes the handle doubled as club or spear
to bring down the God-dead for Huehueteotl
who let the sun move across the temple.

But when conquistadores rode in on horseback
the macuahuitl swung & at the mouth of the desert
it was sharp enough to sever the head from man, or horse.


Yerba Maté

It was raining when you prepared the calabash
with loose tea leaves from the furthest port of Argentina,
a layover on your way from the Orlova
that cruised the Drake Passage to Antarctica,
but together we sipped from the bombilla
tipping the gourd & you told me how close
you stood to the adélies & emperors,
crabeaters & leopard seals biting like dogs,
how you rode the zodiac between islands
or walked out on the ice where you knew
the measure of being immensely alone.
In the kitchen light your beard was full
& behind it, you know, you were becoming.
You said out there where no one goes
the Orlova got news, taps over wire,
of the two planes that dove down
in my country. I couldn’t tell you
how I saw the second plane fly in & burn
as men & women leapt from the inferno.
But late that September we passed the gourd,
a cloud of human smoke weighing between us,
& to forget I saw you off somewhere on the glaciers
as they boomed & calved, a pack of wolfhounds
pulling you over the albedo, an oceanic Europa.


Marriage, After Van Gogh

The mulberry leaves turn at nightfall
like beating wings of blackbirds in a graveyard.
They blow through the starry sky
& scatter into the wind of memory.
We turn, never facing the other in sleep
& silence falls over the bedroom
like snow on a battlefield, but once
I trembled before a street artist’s painting,
my olive skin, my nervous heart
kicked opened by a horse running
through the stable. You shook me
until light flooded the room & then
went out. In the prison of unreason
we are standing in place. The leaves
blow back & forth along the avenue
& teach us something about loving ourselves.
We are little more than waking early
to light bending a shadow on the curtain
& know ritual is only preparation
for an eternal return, or a final birthing.

About the Author:

Laren McClung is the author of Between Here and Monkey Mountain (Sheep Meadow Press). Her work has appeared in The Massachusetts Review, Harvard Review, PN Review, Copper Nickel, The American Reader, and others. She has received fellowships from Teachers & Writers Collaborative, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Oberpfälzer Künstlerhaus in Schwandorf, Germany. She is co-editor of an anthology-in-progress, Inheriting the War, and currently teaches at New York University.