Three poems by Clair Dunlap

bay wind / d.enckbay wind / d.enck


sometimes i am two people:
me, and me but sadder.
the space this second me inhabits is the space between
the mind’s eye and the smaller me of 1998

picking her way over a rocky beach
in stark relief against bleached driftwood trunks
in a red coat in the rainforest, duff under her nails
at the edge of the backyard, watching an eagle chased by crows
unperturbed by rain, billowing on the ferry’s dock
wild smile as she holds a bass, green and slick, in arms
cupping a potato bug so quietly in one palm
that it uncurls itself to tickle across her fingers
and down into the succulents that grow by the laundry vent one summer.

both of me have always loved the state my body is in
or aching towards
far more than the state of my body.

watch myself as if on vhs tape or in photo album
a foreign entity, a vessel for the mountain
or the cold creek rippling with algae
or the moss lit through the branches with august light.

some days here i couldn’t tell you what i look like,
my body more preoccupied with looking for home.

Denny Creek

at night there is only the fish ladder,
black and hulking over the dreamscape.
i sit on the steps and wait for them by moonlight
my hands white as the catalpa’s bloom.

when they come i keep my mouth open,
waiting to know which river i am,
and whose.

i taste a penny on my tongue
slick and dirty
and the deed is done.

other fish brush past me quiet as silk or
rake their teeth against my forearms in the hurdle—
we all want the same thing.
my body is a heavy
and shining map just like theirs.

for days i walk with the roe in my gut
my throat buttercup yellow with its glow.
this is how the eggs have always talked
to their stream. i am the stream and looking for the stream.
i am the shade and seeking the shade.

when i get there,
there was never a time i was not here.
tucking my knees to my breasts
and feeling the cold water lap at the crease of my mouth.
so bright the birds are already coming,
watching me yolk-gold
through their small black eyes.

there was never a home except this.


after Sara Cwyner’s “Rose Gold” (2016)

green doesn’t need to be anything at all if the land convinces it not to exist. pain mustn’t be written on the chart if it cannot be acutely described. so i spill the emeralds and the chlorophyll and the eel-grass from my skull, lay each piece of me across the color wheel. what is the difference between the object of my veins and the object of the hoh rainforest? where does my body fall on a spectrum of color? if suspended in green liquid, would my brain settle? i measure the degrees of separation between me and the pacific ocean as seen on july 13th, 2014 from ruby beach, redraw the wheel until the whole of it is shades of green in order to better describe the space between myself and the water. chartreuse. pear. ivy. jade. honeydew. tangerine leaf in the fès medina. pistachio cracked in the backseat of the car halfway between albuquerque and the grand canyon. iris stalk held fast in mud. nextdoor’s lawn, ours always brittle. best crayon choked at the bottom of the box. my house that someday won’t be my house. seafoam. lemonbalm. fir. if my body fell on the wheel in the street outside my window, would my glow wake the neighbors amidst the snow? if my brain fell on the wheel in the street outside my window, would its scream match the segment it lands on? am i something not made to be here. the color green means something to everyone, heavy in the mouth and sweet. when i try to describe the pain in my brainstem to the doctor it feels the same way: tell me green. rate it on a scale of 1 to 10. five looks exactly the same as five but they are just containers. green looks the same as green but similarly is just a container. my body is also a container, a truer representation of green than the word itself and no good unless i split myself open and hand you the eel-grass to hold wet in your hand. i’d rather you just drew me as one thing, that this could be myself in the window or the mirror or the unlit screen: sun hitting the mahonia in the backyard. i became green to protect myself in the absence of it. it is better to simply live in the pain as the pain than to take all the pills. i am convinced that none of me is anything but. green and the absence of green and pain. i keep them all in one container.

About Clair Dunlap

Clair Dunlap grew up just outside Seattle, Washington, and started writing at the age of six. She is the author of In the Plum Dark Belly (2016) and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Glass: A Journal of Poetry, SWIMM, The Ilanot Review, Hobart, Up the Staircase Quarterly, and more. She currently lives in the Midwest and answers questions in an academic library.

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