Road Construction Ahead

When I think back to the chaos before we left
for Aya’s funeral, I hear my brother’s shouting:
What have you done! What did you do? He’s heaving
his son up by the ankles, shaking, making
him cough up what he’s swallowed: that pill—my aunt’s—
Cardizem, blue, enormous. How kids love—
love—to get into stuff while we are lost
in preparations. I see that shaking, mixed

with a memory of the funny explosions
from Sam’s old video, Road Construction Ahead:
when George, hard-hatted, shouts All-Clear! the cliffs
shudder, then surge down into crashing waves
of dust, cycling over and over: slow spume
weightless in air—unfurling, floating up.
Want to see it again? George asks, and Sam,
two years old, laughs at the screen, Yes! Yes! The clouds
reverse, un-pulverize, and rise again
backwards into rock cliffs. O the cheer
of ashes, ashes all fall down, fall up—

and then: choked stasis. How much of a cliché
is it to say we could see our breath? I see
eerie, stubborn puffs, oddly substantial
in January chill: our nothing-into-not-
quite-something hesitating, like thoughts dazed
into heavy thought-clouds that won’t thaw.
We stand around the grave. How steep it seems,
how deep the grave itself, how hard to hold
Sam up in my arms, though he behaves;
do I stamp to keep my feet un-numb? I don’t
register a word the minister says,
or the minister himself. I just feel the air
flat and steep and frozen in the silence
after he stops speaking—until, squirming,
Sam has enough and breaks out with a shout,
Want to get down! Want to get into that hole!

Jennifer Clarvoe

Jennifer Clarvoe

Jennifer Clarvoe’s first book of poems, Invisible Tender, won the Poets Out Loud Prize and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. A Rome Prize afforded her time to work on her second book, Counter-Amores. She has received fellowships from the Ohio Arts Council, the Sewanee Writers Conference, and the James Merrill House. Recently retired from teaching at Kenyon College, she lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, and is working on poems for her third book.
Jennifer Clarvoe

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Author: Jennifer Clarvoe

Jennifer Clarvoe’s first book of poems, Invisible Tender, won the Poets Out Loud Prize and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. A Rome Prize afforded her time to work on her second book, Counter-Amores. She has received fellowships from the Ohio Arts Council, the Sewanee Writers Conference, and the James Merrill House. Recently retired from teaching at Kenyon College, she lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, and is working on poems for her third book.