by Clare Flanagan

Runestone, volume 4

Forgive me please for not saying the right thing
when you appeared low over my left shoulder, silent and conspicuous
as the clouds crawling down the foothills west
of the Serra freeway. I remember the first time I saw those

better than the first time I saw you – it was the kind of thing
that made me think I could, in this place,
achieve some kind of mythical personhood, a means of swift motion
I’d only read about, or heard roaring

through the slight crack in a rental-car window. I remember that feeling
better than anything we did the first time we got this close – I recall only
a late, dim hour, laying stiff and scared beneath you
like a dry pine waiting to be covered in some kind, cyclical fog

with a name like Carl. It wasn’t going to be like that.
We would never fall asleep together. You left quickly, saying
this is something you get better at the more you do it,
just like anything else, then before sunrise

set a message on your best friend’s desk, reading:
that girl needed it. So forgive me if I claw for words
when you say I seem like I’m doing well – the truth is
I haven’t been doing much of anything, and none of it

is getting easier. This place is not what they promised me,
and I hate myself for thinking I ought to be promised anything.
Some people keep their promises. Some people save themselves
for the person they think is going to save them, but you

were good enough for me – a voice telling me
I’m wanted, a body strapping me to the seat
of my own loaned vessel, hurtling south
past parched hills and salt flats. Here I am now,

beyond all that, in the exact spot I tried hardest to reach –
the sun low, a field of green and close-cropped grass before us,
mountains drought-naked in the distance. Before I turn my back again
and take off running, could you tell me just what it is you think I need?


Stanford University

Clare Flanagan is a senior at Stanford University, pursuing an English major with a concentration in creative writing. After graduation, she hopes to work in a setting where she can amplify and share powerful writing, such as teaching or publishing. She hopes to add her own voice to the literary chorus wherever possible. She draws influence from Ellen Bryant Voigt and Elliott Smith.

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