by    /  June 16, 2020  / Comments Off on THE GIFT

by Clare Welsh

I don’t want it. Take back
the merry-go-round, the red horse

screaming at the sky. The sum
of joy, a penny dropped in the ocean

cracked at the bottom, so currency
sinks to the other side of the globe,

washes up in Russia. See how
my American good time glimmers

everywhere. My American good time
bends tongues to the English language,

slicks billboards with flashy ass
so no one forgets who first

thrust the moon with her flag.
The TV screens flicker

to a stolen blues beat: The drumroll
rattle of pills. The cracking firework

of my lover in his truck
when his American good time

opened his skull to windshield.
The gift is a body with bits of glass

stuck in it. The gift is tied up
with a ribbon like the highway

lacing Houston. Take back
the night with a dead boy

on every street corner. Take back
the childhood of carrying sin

passed like hot skillets from parents.
My American good time, the spangled

oil in bird feathers. The sorrow scraping
the military rifle past my teeth.

All the bullets wedged in school days.
I am tired of measuring my life out

in moments I choose not to shoot
fire into my mouth. Take back the gunpowder

and the god who burned
teenage girls at stakes. Even the movies

take back. The naked woman
like a bomb in the birthday cake.

I won’t prolong the hour to a stream
of images on a phone, won’t collect $200

or call the cops on my neighbor,
who under the stars last night

mourned his hands, the way
they did anything. I heard him

yell on the phone
until it ran out of battery, then

weep. In the silence
that followed, frost reflected

the first ray of sun, the morning
persisted like a song

through a slit throat. In this way
I drag myself into the day,

not a gift, but a note
wrenched from my tongue.

Clare Welsh
is a poet based in Pittsburgh. Recent poems can be found in The Massachusetts Review, Salt Hill, and elsewhere. Her chapbook Chimeras (2015) is available through Finishing Line Press.



City of Asylum believes that All Pittsburghers are Poets. With the Poem of the Week series, we seek to increase the readership and appreciation of poetry locally by publishing poems written by residents of Allegheny County of all ages and levels of experience. In partnership with the Poetry Editors at Sampsonia Way Magazine, City of Asylum advances our mission to defend, celebrate, and build on creative freedom of expression. This project received a RADical ImPAct Grant from the Allegheny Regional Asset District (RAD).

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