Poems by J.A. Clemens

Cherry Tree Elegy

The cherry tree out back
Fills my kitchen window
Like the world-ash Yggdrasil
It is all-pervading
In spring the bright blooms burst
Merry stars in green twilight
A fleeting Milky Way
A pure light so bright it
Extinguishes itself
Self-sacrificial allure
To possess is to defile
To pick is to destroy
To pollinate is death
One can only wait, hope
To see them bloom anew

Stone Glows Red

May brings rain to New Haven.
Yale graduation, 2000.  0Y0.
He’s finally done, and I’m here.
He and I are splitting the airfare.
Utah or Bowdoin; which hat should I wear?

Mother, sister, brother, he and I meet
Sister, cousin, father, and Dolly
At Timothy Dwight.
Two clans joined at our hips.
He and I are joined at the chin.

Woodward broadcasts over the parade,
But Bernstein isn’t in attendance.

Beinecke, the rare book library.
Inside the stone glows red,
As tho’ the manuscripts emit
Lux et Veritas.

First editions of A Tale of Two Cities,
The Guttenberg Bible, The Brothers Karamazov.
All organized by bicameral Congress.

Billiards in the basement on Sunday.
He breaks – we both scratch.
His brand is “Strength,” mine “Balance.”
Insufficient directions from satellite and syllabus.
Two is too many.  He snaps; I snap at him.

We are like the Poles, North and South.
Working united from across the globe,
Wreaking havoc when brought together.
We are elemental forces at odds, my brother and I.

Then came Thor, beard aflame

Ne’er a foe nor threat daunted Thor-Thunderer
Giant-killer and angler of Iörmungandr
Miölnir in his iron grasp, victory assured
None could bring his iron will into submission
Asgard’s champion, vainglorious and proud
Heedless he kindled the wrath of the All-Father
Stern Odin would not deign broker his arrogance
Remorseless summoned before him the Valkyrie
Battle maiden, fell beauty, and harbinger
Of valiant fate, a hero’s place in Valhalla
Her flowing golden hair and dazzling white arms
Rapturous vision by mortal men once beheld
No mere mortal her quarry at Odin’s behest
To settle a quarrel between gods her mission

On white-winged steed Valkyrie plummets through the clouds
Not in white-winged swan plumage for bathing arrayed
But in gleaming armor burnished bright battle-clad
The mounted maiden Thor’s goat-drawn chariot assayed
Descended upon him swift as a thunder-clap
Lightning-quick slash across the astounded god’s chest
Deep dread Dragonfang bit; deeper still his heart beat
“Wouldst thou draw Odin’s blood from the flesh of his son?”
Thus spake Thor, his vengeance an impending storm
“Tis the Father who desires its reclamation”
She answered, her vehemence unwavering scorn
Then came Thor, beard aflame. Midgard trembled beneath
Tooth-cracker and Tooth-gnasher’s furious charge
Her face shone pale with grim determination

Laughing darkly Thor stalked forward, hammer upraised
Deftly darting Valkyrie his broad thigh impaled
Thor swung back his hammer and pounded out the nail
Resounding roar of thunder and flash of lightning
Torrential pour of rain, clash of hammer on sword
Firm stood Valkyrie, relentless her blood-red corselet
Withstood a hail of red-hot blows from Thor’s mallet
Long in heated contest they strove, neither yielding
Each countering advantage the other wielding
Her prowess could no more check him than stay the gale
Strength availed him not against her flowing like rain
Together formed a storm most exhilarating
Laughing mirthfully Thor’s adversary appraised
Her face shone radiant with open admiration


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