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When She Runs

Where the river still carries the ocean’s salt,

she often races to the last inland point

tasting of the mineral mouths of stillborns.


On edge, she is ever on the banks of river—

river bucking her tides, ocean betokening

her second nature as it takes its course.


How they wear one another—

wearing out farewells and welcomes

of in- and out-going tides, undercutting


the currents as cuts in the river grow

more acutely angled and waters churn the silt

of her footprints in the bed. She releases


into feeder streams pretty Thumbelina fishes

engorged to monstrous on the last

of the indigenes. She’s at sea,


a loss. The phases of the moon

never cease to faze her, no matter the tilt

of the globe, its break-neck spin.



Like nervous systems

of carnivores,


this rapture

is true, a syn-


aptic need of both

hunter & hunted,


teller & told,

geld & gild.


Bit by bit

we brand &


ornament & out-

wit ourselves


with fierce tokens

& charms


of encapture:

hoof, tusk, hide…


What have we left

but weaknesses to burn?


Jawed Fish

Outfitting the barque with tackle

and bait, day’s end is a lark

to the nightfisher—bitch sprung loose


from the iron spit, the short chain of day.

Moon-slick riptides usher her deep

as night claims its stake in the flesh,


the spirit. Come midnight, stark dorsal fins

resurface as they do, arcing in graceful

counterpoint to the shark-attack sound-


tracks looping through her landlocked

skull. Hermit crabs on the shore meanwhile

dishevel the tidal grit. For lines tangled,


miscast, for the inevitable losses of lure,

at least she doesn’t blame the wind.

The strands of every fish tale she comes to tell


sinew the nerve it takes to hook,

to haul from some dim fathom

then to gut, her ravening game.


Jo Ann Clark’s poems and translations have appeared in many journals, including the Boston Review, Colorado Review, New Republic, Hunger Mountain, Paris Review, Prairie Schooner, and the Western Humanities Review. Her first book, 1001 Facts of Prehistoric Life, is forthcoming in 2014 from Black Lawrence Press. She is Executive Director of the Hudson Valley Writers’ Center, in Sleepy Hollow, New York.