for Thomas Clayton
Follow the trail of the man who burned.
Somewhere he was born; somewhere
he did things not even he
remembered. Here he might have spoken
words that would have cleared his name;
here he might have been the one
who pronounced the judgement. Here
the young man wrote something and became
the ghost that followed his older self
down the trail of his life until he burned.
Your life is the trail you’re blazing.
You, too, were born; you, too, did things
not even you remember. Where did you speak
the self-incriminating words; where
did you pronounce the judgement?
You’re taking pictures of the ghosts
who burned and of the young man
you once were, far back down the trails
of his life and yours, of his ghosts
and how, you, too, have burned and burned.
Only I was on the cliff-top path.
But you were there, with someone else’s face.
I nodded, smiled, shook your hand, and pushed.
Then all I had to do was walk away.
A Walk Along The Shore
He sees a flower growing at the edge
of the cliff, peeking up from the grass
despite the wind the swallows navigate
from shore to where the insects congregate
invisibly above the endless water.
Beneath that flower are the swallows’ nests,
which perforate the cliff, eroding it
as much or more as does that endless wind.
The buzzing he has learned to never notice
is not the calling of so many birds.
He seems to be alone, but someone else
can see him, and can even see that flower
on a distant screen. Quick fingers tap
the keys to try to get a better view,
a more definitive ID, a clearer shot
on video before the final shot
is finally fired. There we go! It’s him!
A reflex sends the missile on its way.
A boy emerges from behind his father
and reaches for that flower as the buzzing
disappears behind some other noise.
Andrew Shields lives in Basel, Switzerland. His collection of poems Thomas Hardy Listens to Louis Armstrong was published by Eyewear in 2015. His band Human Shields released the album Somebody’s Hometown in 2015 and the EP Défense de jouer in 2016.