Monday Jul 22

McLainNathan Nathan McClain is the author of Scale (Four Way Books, forthcoming 2017). His poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Southern Indiana Review, Weave Magazine, Union Station Magazine, Toe Good Poetry and Inch. A recipient of scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and The Frost Place, Nathan holds an MFA from Warren Wilson and is a Cave Canem fellow.

On Taking Alba Back to the Pound

They'll say: we'll find a place for him.
They'll say: someone will come.

But you already know what will be done:
someone will come and apply light

pressure to the dog's foreleg; a fine needle
will pass into his vein—this process

should be painless. (It's perfectly normal
and acceptable to cry, they'll say.)
Sleep, they’ll say; it's perfectly normal to accept

that you can't keep him, but you want love
to be reason enough to try. No one wants

to live with an old loneliness, but
a body, broken enough, can surprise you

with its obedience. Like the dog, it will beg,
if you ask it to. It will stay, if you say stay.

Odysseus, Delayed

You stand in front of the airport window, watching
the planes arrive, or leave. Or you watch the sky, dark now,
smog where—weren’t there stars here before? Wait long enough

and you’ll find yourself alone with this evening—though beautiful
women pass with their sons, boys like your own who you may never
see again. Listen. A name’s called again, over the intercom.

He has kept everyone waiting; whoever he is—still not responding.

The Sculpture

because there was a black girl there they said
in the garden by the river and I looked because

follow the geese they said their broken formation
they said follow the river and there she was

made to sit pulled to herself her forearms crossed
because she laid her head against them

as if she were asleep honey are you asleep
because she was silent on a stone slab

or her silence was that of a black girl
who had swallowed a large stone

because I had no blanket
and snow clumped on her shoulders

because someone left her like that where did he go
because she might have looked up because I looked

by the river it kept whispering hush and the stone was
quiet and the black girl so quiet because I was

going out of the garden with the loud geese you have to
tell her they said because

the frozen sheet of river also splits
because the black girl was still mine I called her

Night they said was she made to sit like this
or if you could give sadness a shape

or until it hardens you have to leave it alone
because they nodded yes and yes

and the black girl was quiet
she laid her head against them

because wasn’t she a sweet black girl
she did everything she was told


If you see one, lazing in an open field
of grass, alone,

expect rain
I’ve been told—though I may have added

the loneliness part myself
(you know how I

can’t resist loneliness)—still
who would’ve believed it, even

when we saw her—the cow—such calm
and silence, sprawled, almost expectant,
in the yellowing field,

even after it rained
just as you, so many times, said it would?