By Clare Flanagan


I’ve come to recognize, under the untouchable boughs

of this live oak, that loneliness

is a fundamental frequency.


Between the roaring chord

of the highway & the sound

of the sky, I hear it humming,


thick and black

as the line between what could have been

and what was. They say,


given the stark bounds

of the root and the fifth,

you can hear a note that isn’t present –


like the sun’s afterimage

seared onto the eye, or the way, when I stand alone

in the cold lightless evening, I can sometimes feel your hands


as they found each other once

at the small of my back, pulling me into you, away

from the wrong edge of August – don’t open


your mouth. I know the places

to which we cannot return. Why is it, then,

that as I shut my eyes


to the high tangle of  branches, I see it all so clearly —

the overturned milk crates in the alley,

smoke from American Spirits


winding skyward, or before you, even,

the single-track trail by the ageless lake,

the salt taste of the miles I ran


that wore it deeper? It’s February in California,

all the solitary maples slender

under drought, but I smell rain in the air,


millefoil, musk,

hear red-winged blackbirds & leopard frogs

from Julys ago, telling me it was. It was

and I was, I was and


I am

there’s the song

that carries

through the summers.




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