Clara Burghelea’s featured poet, Elliott Freeman

Raze // Raise

Lift up, like a well-aired veil, the worries and the seizing moments. 
Your head is not a thundercloud. The patio, the rocking chair, the lemonade— 

rain only spoils paperbacks and electronics. Everyone has shoulder blades
that join and pivot, twin ridges that could have been anchor points 

for a twenty-foot rainbow-feather wingspan. When it’s wet and cold
and the earth gives up its richness, anyone can slip into the crawlspace

of an old song, something acoustic. If need be, build a duplex
inside your chest—the personal and the meant-to-be-shared. 

Make a fire pit for sins. They don’t burn, not really, but they dazzle,
shedding white sparks like forks in a microwave. Cast your tongue

like a fishing line to rain drops and snowflakes. Dirty up your hands
and grow a garden where the winter chapped your skin. 

Remember, or learn, that the body wants so desperately to live.

Half Measures

When I’m waiting for you, I tie a snapdragon
around the horizon, as if a little link of stem

could anchor down the sun. How small,
these spells: Leave the coffee cup 

unfinished. Make a second portion; 
let it fallow in the fridge. Call the dog

by half her name; you took the other
away. Daisy chains and breadcrumbs

for the birds; a drop of milk left all night
in the saucer; a briquette of quartz lifted

to catch the swipe of a falling star—
if a watched pot never boils, my tribute

is pasta, soaked but still stiff. 
On this first warm rain of spring, 

I’ll catch birdsong and that ozone smell
in a plastic bucket, stretch the cellophane across

until we two can lift and breathe and share.

This is to Say

To X—

This is to say
that you can milk the violence out of yourself and pour it into the storm drain.

This is to say
the moments when you struck were over like wasp-stings; the moments you didn’t
lingered in and through me, these tectonic bruises.

This is to say
that who you are now, the way you’ve opened your ribs and broken your fingers—
I can love and I can trust, but I can never un-shudder 
that whisper of fear.

This is to say
that I will always answer your number as if the other end
is a policeman. Or a coroner. 

This is to say
I know enough of you to see how you stretch the good days around your heart;
to say that I watch you wretch down that muscle memory; to say
that I feel so lucky that you survived yourself. To say: I survived you,

This is to say:

This is to say:
keep going. 

But, Do We Need Another Poem for Spring?

In the spring, the mountains
grow an inch taller, like my nephew
when I haven’t seen him since
a long-ago buzzcut. It matters—

this green up-do of leaves
can clear the bar of a rollercoaster:
You must be at least this alive
to ride. I don’t grow, but

my soul opens; not like a flower,
but an umbrella. It strains
the ribs, inside-outs 
into the wind. I do not fear

the sexuality of moist, 
that ugly muck-and-quench
adjective. The moist world
is the loveliest; did you know

there was a time before 
the roof? That long, steady
moistening cleans and sticks
to skin and hair; the mud

like water; the water like mud—
if you stand too long in it,
you might remember
how the oceans happened

or why the vegetables 
un-tomb themselves. 


If you want to understand a man, 
watch how he holds his fingers—

what it means, not even he knows,
but you will horoscope up an answer

of your own: proximity and angle,
bone and knuckle and hair and

skin. If you want to understand
a tree, imagine each year

as a shirt layered over so many 
other shirts: what is the skin like

underneath? Only an undressing
can reveal. If you want to understand

a city, go out into the morning
and count the homeless 

and the police and the workers
in jersey cloth or silk ties,

make them into a zodiac:
those who arrive at work 

by 8am, born under the sign
of the parking officer; those

arriving in the pre-morning dark,
born under the sign of

the invisible hands and the rubber
gloves. If you want to understand,

take a handful of dice and roll,
then drain the tea cup and read

the entrails and draw three cards
because the knowing is in

the imagining. Every die
is an ink-blot. 

About the contributor

Elliott Freeman is a poet, educator, and game designer living in the mountainous hinterlands of Southwest Virginia. His work has previous appeared in journals such as Rogue Agent, Liminality, and Rust+Moth.

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