Can I write my way out of this grief?
Is there a pattern of ink on paper than will
give meaning to this unhealed wound?
In quiet moments now I imagine myself alone—
graying in a trailer park outside Boise, with dogs
barking and a sad tune playing on a distant radio.
Or, often, I dream of rolling lost through some dead city,
all the other dreamers and seekers raptured to heaven,
or long ago stepped through into another dimension.
And I, with my faithful cat companion, roll
over weeds undeterred by pavement, finding
my secret door into the last surviving library.
Through the skylight, the smoky canopy of this ruined planet
provides just enough light to work my way through Dickens—
fumble my way through Ulysses, romp through Shakespeare.
There are no ghosts here. Just silence, and the flutter of a beloved
bird, long trapped in the stacks, who has somehow survived, and
spends his days seeking release and singing a mournful cry.
In my fantasies, there is insight to be gained through
this lonely life. But in reality I know I’d likely sicken
or starve, all those books unread, the bird left alone.
For it is not simply solitude that I crave. It’s the paring
down of my grief to whatever essence lies within.
An idle dream, for one too lazy to do the work.
I expect to depart this world more confused than I
entered it. I don’t hold out hope for some brilliant
flash of illumination or mystical transcendence.
No, my salvation is more likely to be found in my new love’s
embrace than from freeing that trapped bird. It’s more likely
to be found in his tattooed arms than in the endless desert.
In the end, if I find peace, it may be in accepting
that the answers lie beyond my meager ability
to track down a mis-shelved book.
It lies in the touch of a man as wounded as I,
who sometimes cries on my chest
when he thinks I’m sleeping.
And perhaps that small insight, if truly felt,
and humbly accepted, may be enough
to set the bird free.
—Excerpt from “Song 57,” as it appears in “Apocalyptica: One Hundred Laments for Salt Lake City” by Keith Woo, page 193.
The Last Handful of Clover is a supernatural thriller by Wess Mongo Jolley. Thanks for reading! If you are enjoying this story, please consider supporting the author on Patreon.
For more information (including maps of the story’s world and a contact form) visit the author’s website.
To read previous chapters of this book, go to the Table of Contents page.
If you’re interested in listening to the book, rather than reading it, the audiobook is available at the Patreon link above, and also as a podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Anchor, and all other podcast platforms. Visit the podcast page for more details.
Copyright 2021, Wess Mongo Jolley. All rights reserved.