Grant Clauser lives in Pennsylvania and works as an editor, writer, and teacher. He is the author of four poetry books including Reckless Constellations, which won the Cider Press Review Book Award, and The Magician's Handbook (PS Books). His poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Cortland Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Southern Poetry Review, Tar River Poetry, and others. He's a member of No River Twice, a poetry improv group.
The Good Lie
(after Tracy K Smith)
When some people talk about god
they speak as if it were an astonishing sunset,
something they’d understand better
if only they’d paid attention
in middle school science class.
It looms, flaming gas of heat and doom
slipping behind the hills where maybe
their parents live or the Walmart went up
a few years ago and drove the small stores
out of town. And soon
the sun vanishes into the trees
leaving behind it the great expectation
of stars, a residual light
the way the tide leaves small pools
along the shore where life began.
When I was small I learned to burn
ants and worms with a magnifying glass
under the sun’s sharp attention.
Let me tell you something—
every sunset is a promise
the way seasons and tulips
and volcanos are promises,
all things we keep alive in memory
out of fear that when we open our eyes
in the blue yawn, it will all be true
or it won’t.
Ode to Bats
Bats eat a lot of bugs — up to two-thirds of their body weight in insects daily for some species. There’s an unexpected side effect of all that insect eating, though. Bat scat is described as “sparkling with insect exoskeletons.”—from Wired
Let’s say you follow the rules,
believe in the power of eyes
and hands to know.
That tree roots keep the earth
from blowing into the sea
and trade winds keep the sea
moving in patterns satellites
can track from space.
We’re bound by things
we can’t see or change
like gravity holding us prisoner
to sea and sand alike.
And yet we live under a sky
with the miracle of bats—
bird and mouse in one skin,
blind and able break rules
to see the smallest flutter
All rules are written
in treachery or fear.
Sometimes even gravity
gets it wrong—the magic
when a mammal first lifts
its body into the sky.
What if we all learned
our own private escape velocity?
The force it takes to change
our lives, to rise
above meager imagination’s bounds—
would we risk it?
What holds an animal
aloft more than trust?
Can a blind bat know
that red is the color
of a mosquito’s blood
by taste alone?
This evening I trust
the bats above me
will keep their distance,
that satellites circling the earth
are far enough away to not
believe in me, and here even
the mosquito trying desperately
to drain my arm’s abundance of blood
holds mysteries I will never understand.
I could say this makes us human,
that the space between us
and the bat is as wide as the
vast sky that separates our lives—
Bats have no room in their hearts
for gravity, hanging upside down
by day from the rotting rafters
of my backyard shed, floor
littered with the insect sparkle
of their waste. The night
fills with echo frequencies
carving our bodies out in space.
If we could see the bat’s voice
it would be a web stretching
across the sky like a mad interstate
lit up at night by merging headlights,
all the world’s dark places
opened up to us.