Kathleen McClung

Kathleen McClung

Kathleen McClung is author of The Typists Play Monopoly and Almost the Rowboat. Her poems appears widely in journals and anthologies including Southwest Review, The MacGuffin, Mezzo Cammin, Ekphrasis, California Quarterly, Atlanta Review, Third Wednesday, Forgotten Women, Sanctuary, Last Call, Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California, and elsewhere. Winner of the Rita Dove, Morton Marr, Shirley McClure, and Maria W. Faust national poetry prizes, she is a Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee. Associate director and sonnet judge for the Soul-Making Keats literary competition, she teaches at Skyline College and The Writing Salon and directs Women on Writing: WOW Voices Now on the Skyline campus. In 2018-2019 she is a writer-in-residence at Friends of the San Francisco Public Library. www.kathleenmcclung.com 


For time alone to think, she drives Highway 1
south past Half Moon Bay. She seeks the thrift
store in Pescadero, perhaps a glass of wine
in Davenport. She’s parched. She needs the still
spring day flooding through the car window,
the colors of ocean, sky, hills: blue, blue, green.

A tenant, an urban woman craving more green
than what she spies at seven when she wakes: One
slim, timid tree planted by a city worker near her window.
She admires this civic blend of generosity and thrift.
She blesses the roots snaking beneath the sidewalk. Still,
in the evening, as she unties her shoes, pours wine

into a Goodwill goblet, she knows her wine
can never satisfy her thirst for green,
her Safeway cabernet can never still
her yearnings—for what? To feel at one
with nature? With the divine? Thrift
only goes so far, more a keyhole than a window.

She drives the sinuous road then, quiet, her window
pulling surprises inward faithfully, in ways that wine
cannot. A destination as good as any, the thrift
store beside the road sobers her from green
inebriation, slows her imbibing of sky/ocean/hill—one
elixir unbottled, unlimited, swift moving, stone still.

She steps from car to parking lot, stands still
to read the sign scotch-taped to store window:
“Wednesday Special Everything 2-for-1.”
What day is this? She swims in a lapse (as wine
may genially spill), then comes ashore. Ah yes, green
letters on her wristwatch read WED, and her thrift

doubles suddenly. With each tick tick tick, her thrift
expands, balloons. It nearly lifts her off her feet still
bending her left arm! But, no. She’s grounded by the green
grass of Pescadero, the five daffodils beneath the window
of the store, jaunty daredevils teetering, as if tipsy on wine.
She laughs. The breeze dies down. It’s fifteen minutes after one.

Still charmed, she crosses the threshold of the thrift
store. She may choose a green blouse by the window.
Her free one, her gift, may be red, like raspberries, like wine.

Across and Down

He smoked a pipe and read the Mercury
but saved the crossword page for her. At dawn
she wrestled with small, numbered squares. Her poetry—

her home, three sons, two daughters, a family
she made with George. She could depend upon
him, smoking pipes and reading. Mercury

winked out beside the moon each day as she
put water on to boil and wept for her son John.
She wrestled with small, numbered squares half-heartedly

in a half-dark bungalow until, hungry,
four children woke. One flipped the light switch on.
George smoked a pipe and read. Both Mercury

and scarlet fever—gods of thieves and trickery—
had flown through every house, and paused, then gone.
She wrestled with small, numbered squares. No poetry

they read in church, no hymns they sang off-key
could bring full light. They kept the curtains drawn.
He smoked a pipe and read the Mercury,
she wrestled with small, empty squares—her poetry.

for John Calvin McClung, 1946-1949