Tag Archives: past & present

Saturday Night in the Waning Days of San Francisco by Joe Clifford

(A Sonnet for My Ex-wife, Hadley)
The City burns slow pink electric—

liquor store signs, seething bug eyes, I

watch scamper white ghosts and paramedics

from my window to the street outside.

She’s asleep.  The white of her shoulder blurs

with the radiator steam as it rises.

She looks barely alive, against the flicker

of the pale sodium yellow lamplight

cast up from Sixth and Mission.  It’s months

before I’ll try to swing from a ceiling,

days before the arrest warrants come,

hours ahead of the sickness daylight brings.

Tonight’s just another dirty hotel room,

Far away from home, far away from you.

The Distance by April Ossmann


Fetch means to go after something

and bring it back, but it’s also

an old word for a personal

death shadow, a kind of Grim Reaper come calling.

I am throwing a stick for my dog:

large, black and muscular,

he’s nick-named “Jaws”, and looks like

Cerberus, the dog who guards the gates of Hades—

but the point is that the stick is large and heavy

because he seems to think

the bigger the stick, the better dog he is

or the more I will love him, or both.

I throw it hard, and it lands thirty feet away

with a thud.  When he returns the stick,

I throw it with greater force.  Each time I throw

with greater force; still it lands

the same distance from me.

The past is a stick

which something or someone always

brings back to me; each time more slick, more

weighted with freight:  dirt and grass,

black hair and dead leaves.

I glimpse my fetch, now always

at vision’s edge.  I fear the past

is what I could not bury, a bag of bones

I drag behind me with one hand,

add to with the other, tossing each bone

over my shoulder, until finally,

pitting my whole weight and momentum

against the sack’s weight,

I become that which shaped me.