Attrition

by Clayton Adam Clark Issue: Spring 2015
A blue jay chases a crow twice its size,
and all I can remember are the bees
behind my mother’s house. We threw
tennis balls at a cavity in the tie wall
they’d staked as home, so they engaged
with us. Some bees fought and died
tangled in my brother’s curly hair,
his scalp knotting as I carried him in
after the swarm dispersed. Our mother
taught us to feel guilt, so I practiced
a child’s contrition, blaming his swollen
wails on bees. Most bodies get to grow
then wane. Instinct endures, the constant
provoking each thoughtless action, though
I’ll probably disclaim that. Does cross
the road by my mother’s house at night—
dim forms at the tree line, a large one
trailed by two fawns learning the path
to her size. I throw on my flashers and wait
their passing. If they balk I frighten them
across or back with a honk. Either’s fine
so long as their risk of crossing another
driver is gone, someone who still needs
the yellow sign with a bounding cartoon
buck to perceive their hazard. If an action
is its outcome, then all instincts would be
consequences, sign or not, but the odds
of two bodies colliding always fluctuate
with population density. Cops turned up
one night on a call about the doe alive
and impaled on my mother’s wrought-iron
fence. There’s just one thing we can do.
Because my mother selected stately,
barb-tipped pickets, we had to dislodge
the whole section so a Public Works crew
could uncouple and dispose of the body.


Clayton Adam Clark lives in St. Louis, Missouri, his hometown, where he communicates and fundraises for one of the largest eye banks in the country. He earned an MFA in poetry at Ohio State University and is currently working on his first poetry collection. Some of his other poems are forthcoming in The Southeast Review, Southern California Review, Bayou, Thin Air, and elsewhere.