Our Dizzy Estimate

Poetry / Adam Clay

:: Our Dizzy Estimate ::

Arriving like ivory where 
ivory should not be,
though would being plucked
from the daily ebb 

be preferable to existing 
in the moment, framed by
a just then or a what now?
In whatever painting 

we imagine of ourselves,
there’s a fiction in the moment 
mistaken for truth.
What if the afterwards

reveals itself as stasis? Would
we long for movement or forget
the earlier path in the blinding
wonder of this new exile?


From the writer

:: Account ::

This poem was written during the rush of April, May, and June when I try to draft a poem each day. Most of these poems come from daily experience or what bits of news filter into the day; writing every day, I’ve found, changes the mind in that it’s constantly receptive to poetic ideas in almost everything it encounters. A news story about the illegal ivory trade grabbed my attention one night, and I began to think about the way objects in our world find their way to us, both literally and also through the mind and the way it processes our surroundings (including the self, which the poem eventually found its way to). The title of the poem comes from Emily Dickinson, a poem that mentions “Men of Ivory” and “fictitious People.” I think the quatrains are a nod to Dickinson, and in the end, I wanted the “new exile” of the poem to reference the “Miracle of Death” in Dickinson’s poem. It’s a miracle because the narrative of our self will at last end, though others might very well continue the fiction for us.


Adam Clay is the author of A Hotel Lobby at the Edge of the World (Milkweed Editions, 2012) and The Wash (Parlor Press, 2006). A third book of poems, Stranger, is forthcoming from Milkweed Editions. His poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Crab Orchard Review, Boston Review, Iowa Review, The Pinch, and elsewhere. A co-editor of TYPO Magazine, he serves as a Book Review Editor for the Kenyon Review, and teaches at the University of Illinois Springfield.