Willow James Claire

Flight Patterns

All fall, flocks of geese crashed into our pool at sunrise, bathing briefly before moving on. Recently fifteen, I’d been learning to drive. (This was before you died). Nowadays, I relate to my body the way my body relates to driving someone else’s car in a new pair of shoes: a mind in an unfamiliar mechanism, held captive by movement and time. The past reaches my dreams like snow blown off the top of a mountain reaches the next peak–thinner than itself, and yet, still itself. Is anything unnecessary as like or as when aimed at an evening Arizona sky? That I can still be devastated by beauty gives me hope. I remember the propaganda pouring from your living room TV set, I remember your failing body rising to my high school graduation, I remember taking my pain for granted. (You survived that disease, died of another). Nowadays I sleep into my next life as I hug my blue stuffed rabbit. When I’m alone, I know that grief migrates–I, the cold pool it rests in, before moving on. On my way to another country with what remains of our family, I think, If only you were here, I’d jump out of the plane and float onto the distant water on the tender wings of clouds. Grief moves. I move. Sometimes we intersect, like a formation of birds flying beneath contrails; both of us gone before tomorrow, emptiness and quiet in our wandering wake.


Willow James Claire (James O'Leary) is a trans poet from Arizona. Their work has been nominated for both the Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize anthologies, and has appeared in such journals as Frontier, Protean, The Indianapolis Review, Foglifter, and more. Willow holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College, and currently serves as a poetry reader for ANMLY.
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