by Clare Flanagan

Runestone, volume 4

I’ve come to recognize, under the untouchable boughs
of this live oak, that loneliness
is a fundamental frequency.

Between the roaring chord
of the highway & the sound
of the sky, I hear it humming,

thick and black
as the line between what could have been
and what was. They say,

given the stark bounds
of the root and the fifth,
you can hear a note that isn’t present –

like the sun’s afterimage
seared onto the eye, or the way, when I stand alone
in the cold lightless evening, I can sometimes feel your hands

as they found each other once
at the small of my back, pulling me into you, away
from the wrong edge of August – don’t open

your mouth. I know the places
to which we cannot return. Why is it, then,
that as I shut my eyes

to the high tangle of branches, I see it all so clearly —
the overturned milk crates in the alley,
smoke from American Spirits

winding skyward, or before you, even,
the single-track trail by the ageless lake,
the salt taste of the miles I ran

that wore it deeper? It’s February in California,
all the solitary maples slender
under drought, but I smell rain in the air,

millefoil, musk,
hear red-winged blackbirds & leopard frogs
from Julys ago, telling me it was. It was
and I was, I was and

I am –
there’s the song
that carries
through the summers.


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.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This