I adore this poem by Carrie Olivia Adams right now.

by | Oct 13, 2011 | Reading


A Mystery Story

She would begin by predicting the weather.

The first clue is snowflakes.

She gathers teeth
marks. Flesh torn. Hot.
Then cold to the touch.

No, the detective thinks.
Fabric fibers over ice crystals.

This one delivered.
By hand. By beak.
By slow boat. By
tip toe.
By knocked over accident.

This clue is paper
wrapped. Her fingers
grapple with the seams.

The first clue is wide-eyed.
It is the departure.

Here’s a hint.

The detective is accused of looking
so much like someone / anyone else.

She has one of those faces.

Left or leaving.

Do you have a memory?

Torn by her teeth.
Curled up in her brown hair.

She promises you—

She looks nothing like her.

The detective asks—

Can this be a map?
Or a book of common prayer?

She uncovers—

What would be common—the heart, the blood—
And the failure of
Re-form / trans-form / pro-test
/ -ation
The body, if not map.

The detective knows
If there was a window, you’d close it
to keep out the smell of urban wakefulness.
Or decay. The neighbors.
Or the fireworks—
the clouds that remain
And drink in their shape.

She knows you’ve found this
trace, and didn’t tell her.

Another clue in the street
after it has been swept.
And it’s just the pigeons and her
picking at the crumbs
too small
to sweep.

Maps lie
and it snows when the sun is out.

It’s true that there is no lack.
Or that the abundance
has become its own lack
of wonder

for the detective.

Each bird carries a piece.
She is not alone here, bobbing
through the street. Seeking
or other.

The Detective has a pornographic mouth.

So she’s been told.
So she uses it.
She begs. She pouts. She tells lies.
She swallows / lies.

She scavenges for fantasies.
Foolish and dangerous both.

The detective leaves her own clues.

Moments after asking
what is the meaning of love
she makes love.

This does not answer
the question.

How does she explain—

If she were braver
She would have understood
that one could take suffering

(is it a clue?)

and make a life.

The detective has a whole list that begins:
If I were braver.

(is this the mystery)

If she were braver, she would ask:
Can lies be a form of compassion?

The truth (a clue? a mystery?) —

She spares you with a spare truth.

Some days there are no clues
other than the patterns of migrating birds.

She reads that in autumn the skyscrapers
are a hindrance to the determined
but clumsy.

There is a hospital in the park:
if you find a robin or a sparrow on the sidewalk,
you can swaddle it,
carry it to their hands and stethoscopes.

She remembers a thud and gray
feathers stuck to the window.
It took hours for them to blow away.

And she never found a body.

In many clues there was a draught
and even the pavement cracked
in wide-mouthed begging
until the rain burst
and she briefly forgot
that she had been wanting.

There is a saintly service
She holds on her tongue.

Could it be that saintliness is the safe choice?
The tongue weighs it.

The detective considers
leaving the mystery.

It was the idea of her
and not her
that held you here.


from The Laurel Review: The Poetry Only Issue 43.1 (Winter 2009), Ed. John Gallaher and Contributing Editor, David Dodd Lee.