Five poems by Claudia Gary

CLAUDIA GARY’s latest chapbook is Genetic Revisionism. She is also author of Humor Me (David Robert Books, 2006) and earlier chapbooks including Bikini Buyer’s Remorse and Epicurigrams. A writing instructor, health journalist, and composer of art songs and chamber music, she lives near Washington D.C. Her workshops at The Writer’s Center ( on Villanelle, Sonnet, Natural Meter, Poetry vs. Trauma, and other topics are currently worldwide via Zoom. See; follow @claudiagary

To a Mollusk             

Your life is not defined by an old story

in which, had you remained, you’d surely die.

Nor is it the palatial territory

you crave, create, secure, and occupy.

It’s rather the progression from before

to after, the formation of each new

foyer, parlor, salon, and corridor

in which your predecessor becomes you.

After the briefest stay you labor on,

building a spiral path that winds toward more—

inwardly smooth, pearlescent where you’ve gone

ahead, outwardly rough as ocean’s floor.

You lodge concealed within the earthly mire,

inhabiting your curly multiplier.

Message to Earthlings from Voyagers I and II    

               for Carolyn Porco, Voyager imaging scientist and Cassini imaging leader

Beyond some human lifetimes now, we’ve filled

your minds with data, pictures, dreams. Though twinned, 

our paths diverge, itineraries build.

Reaching the boundary of solar wind,

we rode its termination shock to sail

out into plasma space. While you continue

sorting our childhood photos, they grow stale.          

We bear vital statistics from within you —

your faces, body images and voices —

toward other stars, toward anyone who cares

enough to grasp your golden disk, your choices

of what they’ll see, hear, touch, assuming there’s

contact or empathy. Onward we fly,

your complex way to say hello/goodbye.

Catheter Ablation 

Two hours on the table

his body reclines

arranged as a path

            for cautery’s snake

            to enter his heart.

Clean current stamps

invisible scars

to settle his pulse.

            No longer two steps

            ahead and one back,

blood coursing forward


quickens his brain.

            The serpent withdrawn,

            he gathers his wisdom.


I. Tough Customer

A stubborn teen, she needed to find out

what life was for, whether it had a point.

“I won’t go on, God, till you let me know.

So tell me now or set me free.”  She waited,

and God did both. “Brilliant!” she said. “You win.

I’ll give you a few years – but I’ll be watching.

You’re going to have to show me every day

that you’re still there”. She heard, or felt, a rumble

that may have been laughter, as if the deal

were sealed.

II. Anything to Declare?        

Presented with the light

at seventeen, she chose

to turn back, stay a while,

having seen that joy

kept an outpost here.  

            And what was hovering there?

            No prophets, true believers,

            or any kind of shadow.

Because her life is made        

of unexpected gifts,

she won’t turn one away

without looking to see

what light it holds. 

III. Her Invocation

Temperamental universe in whose purpose

(known, unknown, unknowable) we are swimming,

safe within your energy and your chaos:

make me your prism.

Becoming Buddhist 

The summer of learning to type 

I also slogged to the river with Siddhartha

and analyzed dreams in the shallows

as Dr. Sigmund dictated the code.

Thinking I knew their source

made dreams seem safe, but Hesse was a puzzle

suffused with Eastern sentiments, ideas

I seldom understood.

So when I awoke at night

with fingers typing “nothing” on the blanket

over and over, I blamed nihilism 

or adolescent darkness. 

But no: I was absorbing 

what to expect in order

to be content. /