“Clauses,” “Complements,” and “Moods”

Photo by Daniel Tuttle on Unsplash


The subordinate clause clattered to the asphalt:

Because I didn’t want to be a house flower.

He fluttered his fingers like a hitchhiker. He hoped

to thumb a ride from a dependent clause,

not wobble all night. He was unable to stand alone.

Until the sun shone, Although the road was

uneven, After he shred his leaves

like a desert lily...the Death Valley wind

worked its way up Badwater Basin. Was it better,

he thought, to be subordinate, While the lizard

licked the air, Before the cholla pierced his skin, than

to be a cut flower, already dead yet blooming,

reused like humans do, fussed over, oohed and ahhed

in a glass vase, then composted with stinky

okra, moldy biscuits and bread? Nah, he thought.

He staggered on, flopped over rocks. If a rosy boa

slithered in front of him, If a bobcat’s eyes

outshone the moon, ...He would find a dependent clause,

be the clause with the right echo, be the coyote

with the right howl and find a ride.


Thank you for admiring my garden

of gentian violets, but you must mean

my compliment cousin, the one with a dotted

i like the black-eyed Susan blazing up

the front bed in yellow. I complete with an e.

I am the tease that Marilyn made, the cream

cheese sandwich that Mandy fixed for Nikki.

In This is your inheritance of blue pajamas,

I am the pajamas with blue whales and dolphins

patterned across my bottom, swimming, surfing

under a down comforter. I answer questions

of what, whom, to whom and for whom in an

objective way. I stared at the beer-glazed table.

Pumpy thumbed a piece of banana bread in the kitchen.

I complete predicate nominatives: Behind you he

seems tall and thin as sheets of aluminum.

I am the light that the black flag cannot darken.

I complete thoughts the injured officer cannot tell.

I am the unknown solution to medicine

waiting for hands and minds to complete me.


My sister is imperative, maybe a heretic,

a therapist for hairless cats and bares

her soul to no one but garden gnomes.

She’s family, part of the blood feud.

Don’t pursue that girl with Chinese food she

says. Bake a cake or make peace with pies

and crust up something sweet with meat. Get

the white heat going—know what I mean.

Don’t be thinking she’s from Grub Street, and slumps

up to dinner like a suction pump, pats

her belly, tells you swell things in a death knell

voice. Get some sense. Pretend you’re French.

Love is Moving Day every day in our

family. I skim light from the horizon,

tuck it under my trenchcoat like a private eye.

I’m indicative but not wicked in mist.

Cousin Carson is drunk in the subjunctive

this month. I recommend that she be admitted

to an asylum. If she were happy…I wish it

were so, but no, she’s lost to if and though.

Sometimes messy or flexed in geometric

drifts, we moods collude, bump our butts

until we’re rude fools, attitudinal,

a skewed dudes, blue as swamp water tunes.

About the Author

John Davis

John Davis is a polio survivor and the author of Gigs and The Reservist. His work has appeared recently in DMQ Review, Iron Horse Literary Review and Terrain.org. He lives on an island in the Salish Sea.