1849 c/o Jack Nicholls

learns that she lives in the yolk of a song
and feels stupid for not getting it sooner.
Duh! The air here is protein-rich with America.
Great highways of blood hang in the sky
in the summer, when Oh My Darling Clementine
feels sticky and big in the sunny guts of America.
Secretly she plots to escape and makes her face secret
and blank as pizza dough, proofing at night.
Just off to meet my sweet-heart, Daddy, ta-ta!
she calls as she exits the cavern, though her Daddy
sits shirtlessly on the soily ground, mining
gold from his gums with his fingers.
Oh My Darling Clementine skips lambily away.

A smuggled teaspoon pinks a hidden mark
on her body underneath her Target bra.
She goes to the sweaty nook where the creek runs.
She digs a bit and her spoon fills with fictional water.
She glances at the thornbushes for spies and digs
the air ahead of her. The air leads nowhere
and does nothing. Oh My Darling Clementine
learns that she herself is the song.

The creek laughs like a puppy.
She loses the spoon and unpeels her stomach
with a stuck-in thumb and a swift yank down,
plunges in wristfirst and tries to crawl through
her own body but cannot bend far enough,
goes red in the face, tumbles to the pebbles,
heavy and smooth. She looks in her belly
and it is an empty room with her little sister crying.
Oh My Darling Clementine writes in the quiet
rivermud a song in which she clots the mine

with rocks, snuffing a hundred Yankee candles.
Here comes the singer with a pick and a wish
and her Daddy’s body in neat American bits.
And Oh now the canyon is burning.
And Oh now the bones of the canyon are burning.
And Oh now the gold in the canyon is a burning
river and the gold river is burning.
She sings her song until the yellow seethes away
and the stars blink their fisheyes at her. Before
the hand comes to mend her wet stomach,
zip her up and trot her home, Clementine knows
that the Clementines of both songs are lost,
that the spurs on her sweet-heart’s linedancing boots
burn like angels, that I have tarried but now
I have come for my darling.