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Jacket 21 — February 2003   |   # 21  Contents   |   Homepage   |  Catalog   |

Tom Clark and Anne Waldman

Zombie Dawn

A brief introduction and “key” by Angelica Clark

Tom begins the exchange by sending Anne the opening lines, ending on the mysterious padlock; she then replies, addressing him (?) as Richard III in the second “clump” or block of verse (the elderly immigrants getting slot machine blues, etc.). Tom fires back, addressing Anne as “nervous raven queen... caring world saver,” etc.; she then brings in death of the Roshi as calming influence. Tom comes back with the “Memphis nightshade dawn/Sphinx/government of shadows” stanza; Anne comments in hers, “lovely that, and dark...” — which leads into her “interview” with Tom. He fields/dodges the questions, and then introduces “New line of argument”: Scott’s doomed trek and the quest for knowledge. In response to that Antarctic stanza by Tom, Anne explodes into a list-rant about the evils of the world. In his next stanza, Tom circles back to the World Cup, then branches out to Gaza and eternity. Anne replies with “sports was body once,” etc., and then slides back into quizzing Tom. Tom ducks out from under the latest round of quizzes, then heads for exit/Coda. His Coda is interrupted by lines from Anne (Tom turns this into a “he”/”she” dialogue); finally he “reinstates” the Coda as he originally wrote/intended it — i.e. as “poem”. The whole work was done via e-mail in July-August 2002.

Does any of the meaning you think at times you see
disappearing ahead of you just out of your reach
actually materialize once you’re gone (no longer looking)
Long white nights insomniac alone save
for your stupid fears dull recursive woes inventories
of chronic fuckups defects in the code the world
cup flickering mute on nocturnal tube midnight
to zombie dawn (get a life) later back to books
Henry IV Part One Falstaff a recognizable
human like you takes bribes carries bottle
into battle not gun dismisses honor as a mere
word empty and then Tacitus on globalization
in Britain 2000 years ago the legions of Rome
raptores orbis plunderers of earth prophetic world
dot com fable of profit motive (what else is new)
Then as sun comes up Sunday paper for the obits
wherein growing older you discover your familiars
today Jean du Lac master of the orotone (photo repro
on glass) born in France died in San Francisco ashes
scattered off Marin coast “The majority of his life
a mystery” he “left behind a single key
to a solitary padlock The location of the padlock
is unknown”

Does any of your poet’s philosophy, sketchy text both
light modern you stray into unaware ever just out of
reach (no longer looking), does any of it — in reproductions
himself splendid on glass — a not very dominant alpha male
dark with urge and playing the wicked Richard III blame
nostalgia — does any of him add up here? the company
of rude mechanicals ailing, who’s got scratch to take in a show
although you can’t say enough about a kingdom for a full house
as elderly immigrants get the slot machine blues,
free chits in Atlantic City no excuse for better one-more-time
globalization policies (they are hungry immigrants)
where jealousy is mere passing and jumpy
disquiet because house empty again house empty again
adjacent to 3 a.m. altercation you reading Cymbeline
down the block in new Snitch Mode police arrive
to lock up noisy hormonal teen (girl?) who wants to break glass
all over the lawns the worst crime is lack of
imagination wherein growing older she’s got fires to burn
water to waste drought to countenance hell to pay
the Armageddon that is bolder these days, smoke on the mountain

Synchronicity stranger than fiction tv shows off-beat cinema night of the living
dead beating off the poetry ghosts like Odysseus at the fosse Orpheus Eurydice
O nervous raven queen O caring world saver which you is you
middle of night brings out truth horror you like urge-dark doesn’t-add-up him
splash yourself despite yourself hands incarnadine on wasted-time rorschach
paper tiger wounded alpha boring mister wrong (again) stands indicted
in arid mammal power vocabulary not very dominant alpha male like not
very wet water oxymoronic easy reductivist wordgame must we poets stoop to that
kids’ mirror-language turning-the-word-inside-out
“jumpy mechanical altercation 3 a.m. house empty again
a kingdom in reproduction who wants the slot
machine chit splendid dark wicked you police arrive”
arrest you (me) lame shooter-back of cheap shot
3:41 a.m. take meds try not
to wake sleeping wife whose fault this isn’t then whose
arrow points back at self who’s talking
go comb fleas out of silky fur of big beautiful black
and white male happily not very dominant cat
catch two crush look down oops fingernail stained with red flea blood

the meds were dead. the light extinquished. I walk outside.
Moon. Moon mooner than full, I mean rose water, I mean Sphinx
In the play about the asphyxiated I will retire.
I am wound all over again. I am silky fur, I
walk the mile in my way to get nails done
Get mails done! get nails done sooner: okay!
semi-colon marks for the long suffering I beg of you
because otherwise we rot and burn our only thorns
not enemy erratics when — — go for it — Chaucer aka Richard III
intuit the erratic, fear no and fear again no, no
The Diet wars subside in the low-cost lost calendar
I penciled in marks as one who would strive, love
Another kingdom to follow? stay here, my friend -
before I die to hound you. Life is short. They
had been marked by color and by problematic love
you wonder you lose sleep, sent to the Meditator offering the notion that “time is smooth”
it is, and then the Roshi dies and you are done now, night

fears, never again, go off and hound warlock day for now we are at peace
though the inky dictates of this Memphis nightshade dawn keep plucking
at the reins of the ghost riders in the sky who drag red roses across this moon
as if the dark and wicked Richard traded his kingdom for their horses
blood or rose water pale-faced and perturbed silent sister cold
governess of floods and vitreous watery beams, forget the stars fruitless
O Sphinx explain nothing in this long Nile night pour your allegory on our banks
worldly night green and glowing then red then touched with charcoal
Long Nile night pour your augury on our blanks O problematic love
what flowers are these at my feet in this sleeping forest
not sent by you, tender and ever growing in your Roshi desolation
to which we come in homage I know you are there
fair regent of the Nile O night shade terror gloom queen
The tail of the great Sphinx flicks and swishes across my chest
eternity is greeted with an empty handed salute damned or blessed
all the same in the end just or unjust, absolutely equal
to the great Sphinx, it’s only you who insists on getting excited
in this time of the government of shadows

lovely that, and dark yet a government that in recalcitrant
not bending-mode scorns and insults its citizens, will not
make appraisal of “right” thing to do it’s more we’re right not them
the voters fickle in the night of endless desert war, right you say?
and water the amniotic flows through his embalmed veins, the teacher
that in lambent mode — pain or balm? — lies down his Roshi stick
isn’t water to be born in? isn’t water the end to all our drought & thirst?
isn’t she, the watery one, just our style? won’t water
drown your sorrows? and the water that follows wine ease this
headache? and nurture the poor Miss Manners in the yard, the lilies,
of the field brought to the desert, water the red feather grass,
the purple sage, all a bouquet in Roshi death
Richard storms the stage again tonight, bad boy leather-clad
where’s the retribution? kill the leaders and get not horse
quixotic Trickster Sphinx who does not take our cares away
& dwells in mystery and back-alley shadow, what we do to each other

say it again: do to each other

Interview (an interlude)

1. Tom I ask you how did we meet? I known it happens thru mail and the publications of poetry in major and precious small literary magazines and the dock at the boat the day you come to our city and are welcomed. And a day of DMT at the apartment of the poet who turns art critic, is that correct? What is a first impression? tell me again Who are we? What is time and destiny?

Memory, as one gets older, has an amazing way of revealing its stored “frames” in the form of palpable moments still clear and tangible “as day” even nearly forty years down the line, in the great otherwise dark of the otherwise endless (but not quite) night. I have two moments here. One is a postcard I get from you in England, that is I’m in England, you in N.Y., sometime in the winter of 1966-67. I am holding it in my hand and looking at it in my memory. (The card itself is long gone, I took no mail back from England with me.) It says, “Do you go all the way?” The other memory or stored frame contains the day in February 1967 when I get off the ocean liner United States in New York. This is an absolutely clear and vivid memory of that whole day, almost minute by minute. It starts in the saloon (bar) of the ship, where I’m dressed up for entering the Empire, waiting, as we cruise past the Statue of Liberty and up the river to the harbor of the great city of the Empire of Birth and War which I haven’t seen in nearly five years. As I wait among the other passengers I am nervous and excited, a little scared, and beginning to feel the effects of a massive dose of powdered Swiss pharmaceutical LSD which I have, as I wait, nibbled out of the quicks of my fingernails, where I’ve intended to store it as I pass through customs — a bad idea I’ve decided, thus the nibbling (that too a bad idea, as I now look back on it, though at the time...). So anyway, here in the huge imperial customs shed, my steamer trunk full of books is being thoroughly and closely searched because they’ve noticed my collection of Olympia Press books, this takes what seems like hours, finally I am admitted to America and as I approach the gate I am greeted by — this is actually a complete not to say welcome surprise — three charming and dear long-haired youthful instant poet-friends, who, I soon learn, are Jim Brodey, Lewis Warsh and yourself. My first impression is you’re all marvelous-looking and you’ve made this terrifically generous gesture of hospitality and greeting on behalf of (or in despite of) America. I am moved and amazed. I also realize you’ve been waiting here quite a while, in this vast dark and tiresome theater of horrors U.S. of America customs shed. Your impatience to get the show on the road doubles my amazement at the patience you’ve already shown. We all get in a taxi. The taxi takes us to the Third Street ground-floor apartment of the poet later art critic Peter Schjeldahl. Peter too has wonderfully long hair, though he is otherwise quite well groomed and well dressed. Lewis’s and Jim’s hair is not as long as Peter’s. Your hair is longer than Peter’s and so is mine. (Peter’s wife Linda, who has the longest hair of all, isn’t home at the time.) We sit around at Peter’s. Ted comes over. Ted’s hair is almost as long as Peter’s but he is much less well dressed in, as I remember, army fatigue pants. Some one of Ted’s charming street hippie connection friends has lately bestowed upon him some substance which, Ted charmingly explains, contains belladonna, but only of a most benign kind — or, perhaps, Ted adds as a bit of a tease (also a bit of the truth) it is not belladonna but INK, however — anyway some of us take some of this. The moment of the taking of it is BLACK OUT (temporary blind spot in the otherwise vivid stored frame). Next, Lewis and you leave. You have to go back to work at your job at Poetry Project and Lewis is going to go home to St. Mark’s Place to chill out (as kids would now say though can you do that on DMT?). Peter has turned down the belladonna/ink and now grows visibly impatient though I have now generously produced my Jimi Hendrix records and would happily settle in, however taking cue from Ted I pack up, we — Ted Jim & I — leave, outside black kids’ transistor radio plays “Heatwave” (Martha & Vandellas), it’s bright hot & sunny though only February, at corner of Third & 1st Ave. we pause at light, Ted nonchalantly says “Jim now we go this way (pointing south) you go that way” (pointing east). Jim obeys. Ted takes me off to begin official Lower East Side monument tour including Frank’s ex-apartment where we stand outside while Ted gives his Frank lecture, Joe’s apartment where we go in and Joe perfectly gracious yet nervous and slightly impatient at being interrupted in midst of making paintings for big upcoming first Fischbach show serves us Pepsis as Ted gives total lecture on Joe’s complete works, on down through the iluminated rest of that day, Fiorello La Guardia and ending up chez Bernadette. Bernadette not that thrilled to be included in the tour (by now it’s night) hooray for Bernadette, I don’t blame her. First impression, everyone is absolutely wonderful but who are we? What is time and destiny? How can we have put up with ourselves and each other down through these many years? How can and have other people put up with us? Did they and do they? What can we (together) really do for them? Will it really help them? Does it make any difference? Can we make up now for everything we’ve done wrong before? Am I using the royal We? Should I have adopted that kitten with no tail who followed me on my way home tonight? Why can’t it all work out right?

2. Tom I ask: What is our poetics? What do we share and did share?

Without meaning to evade this question I’m a little bit (superstitiously) afraid of risking stepping on the toes of our poem-in-progress (which has better manners than me, but at least I’m trying), or scaring it into hiding, by even so much as whispering about poetics in its presence. Keats spoke of a line in Shakespeare as being so delicate “one’s very breath while leaning over these pages is held for fear of blowing this line away — as easily as the gentlest breeze Robs dandelions of their fleecy Crowns.” (He was talking about Troilus & Cressida, Act One, “... the seeded Pride / That hath to this maturity blowne up...” etc.) Aileen Ward, the best of K’s biographers, called “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” a poem so delicate one fears to breathe on it lest one blow it away. Our poem is nowhere near that delicate but you’re trying and I’d like to live up to that example by not taking one wrong rude blunt breath right here. (The Sphinx, upon hearing the words which a human has dared to utter in its presence, begins not to speak but to sing — in total silence.)

What we *do share and did share*, I’d like to think, is taking joy in and having love and thus respect for poetry, that thing which presented us the opportunity to know one another in the first place and which now presides over the opportunity for us to get to know one another in the long run even better, hopefully for the good of ourselves (I don’t want to get carried away here) as well as of others, “not forgetting animals” (to quote the current favorite author in our house, Nancy Mitford). As to the vulgar details of poetics, I’d never speak (lightly) of them in public, but as we’re in private here, I have a strong sense that in this department we probably did and do share more in common than either of us knows or would want to admit. I’ve always been a little bit more interested in constructing sentences than you and you’ve always been a little bit more interested in getting to the point. This too long answer can stand as evidence of the superiority of your way, ergo why I’m enjoying learning from you as we go (though they say the old are very slow at language learning).

At any rate, if anything has ever stood between us at any time in life (see #3 below & reply), how sad that would be but it wouldn’t I bet be poetics. And just to elaborate on that for one moment, I find, latterly, as I compare the work of my contemporaries with that of the poets I teach (Wyatt, Jonson, Donne, Herrick, Marvell, Keats, Pound), that I place you as a “traditional” formalist by *instinct*, by which I mean merely that in poems that seem to begin as *mere* formal exercises — I think here of “a perfectly clear liquid” — you seem to be able to reach also the top of YOUR form (personality & truth). As I consider this a strong compliment I’m obviously honored to get invited behind the screen to peek at your poetics “from the inside” as a collaborator (because he or she who shares “authorship” is both uniquely privileged, and necessarily forced, to do so). But of course when I do get in there and feel your mind at work now, I feel it as a strong and active formal *interrogation* — as indeed I feel with this “interview.” This voice becomes my inquisitor, its rhythms the rhythms of a beautiful and delicate interrogation (“isn’t water to be born in?”) which moves from questioning moment to questioning moment within its formality, with sense of “lengths” of “lines” of question as refractory waves that *break back* — as, in fact, do the refrain lines in “a perfectly clear liquid.” Wyatt, of course, would have admired that: *I speak from memory* here of your amazing triolet which is not so much an exercise — and as you of course know triolet is the ultimate degree-of-difficulty French fixed form, achieved fully in English only by Thomas Hardy before you — as an act of formal distancing wherein the fixed-form “tuning” removes one (you) from the painful moment with your mother in the hospital sufficiently to allow you to make a poem of it. This DISTANCING is also the effect of the formalization of the interrogation. It’s this distancing which I find in questions #3 and #4 below, making them almost bearable. (Almost but not quite — thus inevitable and “telling” — see Q. #5 below & reply.)

But in writing those sentences, you’ll see, I’ve both finally bowed my head and begun to give an honest answer to your questions, and in doing so not only rudely breathed upon our poem, but perhaps — to use a verb my student Micah Ballard latterly introduced me to, relating Lyn Hejinian had once done it to him in a wet dream — “ralphed” on it.

3. Tom, please tell me, if you will, the urge to settle. The urge to write.

Is this a “personal” or a “general” (?) question? Urge of dark wicked Richard returning to haunt the personal (grudge) field of our poem again with his dense lines of argument by night or urge of weak day?

If you mean, to settle with and write to you, I am telling you the answer to that question in our poem as we go (see below). I can’t further tax the patience of our longsuffering silent third partner in this collaboration Angelica by saying more at the moment but of course if you want to know more, call me up some night & I’ll tell all. (See answer to question #4 below.) (Do you go all the way?)

If you mean, to settle something else, or write something else, I have those urges all the time, but unlike with this, I usually don’t act on them, if you get what I mean here kid.

4. Tom: how does love last?

On a wing and a prayer and by my keeping this short.

Or, by shaping up. (As our poem suggests, love is problematic by nature.)

5. Tom, as investigative poet and biographer and memoirist what is the “telling” line? What drives these heroic tales?

My dear, it’s 5:12 in the morning, and the first half of your question has squeezed the truth out of me at last: “as” all of those things you list, I’m hung out to dry forever (as you must know), and furthermore, this work (answer to interrogation) represents my last words ever of any kind (if our poem survives these embarrassments & exposures it’s got more nerve than I have).

However, as “me” (ailing geezer who reads poetry for consolation & deep pleasure late at night), “I” believe the “telling” line is the inevitable line that gives the game of the universe away by revealing it repeating itself endlessly. Poetry is like the universe and of the universe. Its formality is a way of pawing the ground in place, to use the phrase of the anarchist maniac Blanqui. In infinity, eternity performs, imperturbably, the same routines. The wave keeps breaking back. The refrain lines recur over and over and over again. They are inevitable and telling, the ghosts that haunt the structure (the house in “The Night of the Living Dead”), and the tale they tell is inevitably haunting. The weird recursiveness of this formal interrogation itself, in fact, both slyly imitates and perhaps shrewdly invokes poetry. I’m going to leap on the latter possibility before the sun comes up and I lie down again in my coffin. New line of argument:

say it again: do to each other and here again love enters the picture
problematic, but also like suffering our teacher who says
confess, do admit the wrongs you have done for knowledge
is the Negative One, all we know is our suffering
our joy is what we do not know for in the moment of knowing it
we fuck it up, in this darkness which is the size of Africa yet cold, cold
and we don’t dare whisper a word in the presence of this frozen Sphinx
everything is torment perhaps we’ll get to the end of this world
come out at the other end without this agony in which we begin to die
but quiet women friends bring soup, we shall live a sort of half life
in our nice little house with pain killers on hand yet the struggle
up the slope of the glacier is tedious, we must be kind
we don’t wish to hurt people’s feelings but Americans haven’t got any
“leaning slightly to pick up a book I had a pain like the
end of the world” (Nancy Mitford) or more to the point
remember her heroes Scott, Wilson who made the appalling winter journey detour
sixty miles along the Antarctic coast to Cape Crozier
in utter darkness and one hundred degrees of frost solely to find
the egg of the Emperor Penguin (“man” searches for knowledge the supposed
“missing link” between bird and fish but the real goal the knowledge
the suffering stupid “solely to know”), Oates who staggered out into the blizzard
endless winter night to die so his comrades might survive
no one survives this journey to the end of the night (steering by Jupiter)
the darkness profound invariable day/night in this total blackness quite arbitrary
frozen stiff in one’s clothes by sweat which turns to ice and everything slow, slow
each of us humans wants to be tested wants to prove to ourselves how much we can endure
how much we can know

like the end of the world: aerosol sprays, aircraft noise, arsenic, automobile exhaust
like the end of the world: benzene, beryllium, carbon dioxide, carbon tetrachloride
like the end of the world carcinogens, chlordane, chlorobenzenes, chromium
like the end of the world you say coal smoke, dichlorides, DDT, dieldrin, dioxin
like the end of the world: endosulfan, ethanes, ethylene glycol, ethylene oxide
like the end you say who sent me here
like the end of the world: fenoxaprop ethyl, fluorocarbons, fungicides, gasoline
at the end: heptaclor, herbicides, hydrocarbons, industrial particulate matter,
isocyanuric acid
as an end to : lead paint
like the end of the world: leptophos
like the end, and is it? mercury, mining waste
then: napalm, nitroso compounds, noise, nuclear waste: like the end, and was it?
paraquat dichloride, parathion, pesticides, radionuclides
the end it was & my friends came weeping: sewage sludge, sulfur oxides, tobacco smoke, toxic waste
ultraviolet radiation, vinyl chloride, wood smoke rising
pain like the end of the world or reading the world as a book
she bends her hero-pioneers to the task, like us, readying for the launch
the stars are out out of their canisters, earlier I phoned many senators to
stop a war on Iraq: Boxer, Kerry, Feingold, Biden, Helms have mercy on us, I, citizen beg of you, and may your voices be as mine - mine of the
poets resembling Kurds living in a no fly interstices: who sent us here?
for rant and comment, see my new space station replete with space weapon dock
loading up for the millenniums and the moons of Jupiter in their checkerboard houses, I live chez the young poets of the past it is the hour of the day crossing the time frame, no war this time it is whatever you say it is, but I say it is no war this geezer hour of the night

consciousness hath murdered sleep, I mean vigilance hath
in this summer of pro bono and cultural reparations
I get so little sleep, I’m able to memorize
the 4 a.m. BBC world news soccer results for Diogo
Olympia over Sao Caetano in Copa dos Libertadores
Sao Paolo, Ailton scores in the first half
for the faery tale Sao Caetano side but Olympia
comes back on a series of furious crosses
in the second half, wins on penalty kicks
when two Sao Caetano players lose their nerve
I identify with them and send Diogo an e-mail
Anne, only our poem knows what will happen
in the great field of play which is the field of the Lord
to whom we say, Lord not among these people
after Seferis who meant the Germans occupying Greece
whereas we mean the people getting ready to invade Iraq
or is it the people who are firing missiles into apartment houses in Gaza
each particular combination of materials and people
must be repeated thousands of times to satisfy the demands
of infinity, a death in this world is also a death in another
what I write at this moment in my cell at dawn as the birds begin to speak outside
on paper with a pen, clothed as I am now, in circumstances like these
I have written and shall write throughout eternity

sports was a body once and kicked the ball, sitting in the biker bar all the rules collapse in color and does this world cup bring out the beesties or what narcissism? bump it up, flip the bird, slam on “other”
As the categoria pequena baseball kid in Cuba said re: “American” athletes “They play only for the millions. A real player plays because he likes baseball and doesn’t need that much money to lead a normal life” & we would love that sense of normal, that sense of life, wouldn’t we — passing the buck?
Marina Tsvetayeva of “Insomnia” responds: “But I have looked too long into human eyes./ Reduce me now to ashes Night, like a black sun.” And you might agree looking that hard into what only our poem knows
me too the night- dawn shift, was it the piece on pre-cogs? or the American turned toward Iran, now revealed (beard off) in “Kandahar”, was I reading Chaucer in my sleep again, dawn #10 or so in this poem the alchemy parts or listening to Poulenc, the ongoing syncretic life parts, Sikelianos’ “borderguards” thinking that’s what we are at this weird juncture,
at this divide: keepers of the lines, how read the world map once again for the
next bright day without rain, garish light, we turn back into the desert
caked earth underfoot & last night a drumming Macbeth set the lines back, what they would not let the words speak of themselves, double double toil and trouble
& the headline speaks of a ban on sofas so the kids don’t go crazy and torch them don’t go crazy don’t go crazy , what are those birds, Tom, what kind?

for TC:

What about the poet-heroes of yesteryear? What do you see on the horizon in that realm? Reading your Dorn book struck once again by the diversity of the older poets lives, more hard-scrabble...and now?

Those birds, Anne, are ravens saying nevermore, loons saying someone wants to read this, and Emperor Penguins trumpeting to us from a cold, dark netherworld of confused and confusing hypertextuality, where I’d fear to tread water and toward which we are, it now seems, headed in one’s handbag.

Yes, the heroes of yesteryear are definitely both diverse and dead and WE are so NOT hard-scrabble anymore, Toto.

I’ve all along suspected (reminded here by the wording of your question, “horizon of that” — or is it “horizon in that — realm”) that the reconstruction of dream-realm elements, in the horizon moment of waking up, provides a good paradigm for the construction of poems. Thinking of the ballad of Thomas Rymer, who could remember only vague bits of his seven years away in the faery kingdom of the horse-riding woman who abducts him in his dream, reminds me poems too are necessarily faulty reconstructions. Like dreams in their state of incomplete recovery, the area of this making which we and our goofy-geezer doubles do is riddled throughout infinite universes with error, contingency-process unreason, in short it is that penetralium of the mystery, or by another way of saying, that jungle of utter endarkenment we call chance. Night and chaos have descended upon Zombie Dawn.


[wherein the “line of argument” turns upon itself, beginning to die out]

He: Talking to yourself like hello stranger friends to one another late slightly dotty handbag poem,
forgetting to remember and remembering to forget, you tell me
Life is short.

She: It sucks. They are ruining it for us. They aren’t my people my tribe my government. They never had my vote or approval. In fact they stole all the horse power. You know the Trickster stories: birth in the form of a rope, avoiding thunderbolts, killing a shark which is thrown up to the Milky Way. All these I would do to undermine their reign of terror. And so on.

He: Before I die to hound you shall I become you,
drown your sorrows? And the water that follows wine ease this
cup of sorrows flickering mute on nocturnal tube tonight? Time grows smooth,
word empty sketchy text marked both by color and by problematic Love
the quixotic trickster Sphinx who does not take our cares away,
his jealousy mere passing and jumpy his arrow points back at a mystery “he” who’s talking

She: & “he” who is the guy inside, the watcher? — mapping the galaxy. It wakes and slumbers, this one in our head. It emits Nebulae. The absorption nebula contains dust that scatters starlight and hides stars from our view. In her handbag: a cosmic mirror you cannot see, Dark Age Makeup for the new Millennium.

He: Moon of your forgetting and mooning fuller than full
not seen by miners inundated 100 hours in the dark, won’t your rose
water (isn’t water to be born in?) drown their sorrows, what flowers are these at my sleeping feet O moon
of shadow market’s swoon and crash, Tokyo index down two hundred points at opening
who dwells in mystery? What do we do to each other beneath the earth in the dark
worldly night green and glowing then red and touched with charcoal?

She: We do the best we can, touch each other gently through impulse of sound that a poem might be that a poem is, we mark time in hours otherwise consumed by rage, despair, and loneliness. We take the green version with the red, we lie down with the river and the corn, with the boulders and the snakes. We look up.

He: The stars are out
for rant and comment, blue immigrants vulnerable in this elephant graveyard when they dream
what I write in this moment in my cell as the birds

She: (what kind? here it’s jays and crows)

He: begin to speak

She: (yammer)

He: outside
while quiet women friends bring soup at zombie dawn

She: and caution: hush.


[once more, with feeling]

Talking to yourself like hello stranger friends to one another late slightly dotty handbag poem,
forgetting to remember and remembering to forget, you tell me
Life is short. Before I die to hound you shall I become you,
drown your sorrows? And the water that follows wine ease this
cup of sorrows flickering mute on nocturnal tube tonight? Time grows smooth,
word empty sketchy text marked both by color and by problematic Love
the quixotic trickster Sphinx who does not take our cares away,
his jealousy mere passing and jumpy his arrow points back at a mystery “he” who’s talking
Moon of your forgetting and mooning fuller than full
not seen by miners inundated 100 hours in the dark, won’t your rose
water (isn’t water to be born in?) drown their sorrows, what flowers are these at my sleeping feet O moon
of shadow market’s swoon and crash, Tokyo index down two hundred points at opening
who dwells in mystery? What do we do to each other beneath the earth in the dark
worldly night green and glowing then red and touched with charcoal? The stars are out
for rant and comment, blue immigrants vulnerable in this elephant graveyard when they dream
what I write in this moment in my cell as the birds begin to speak outside
while quiet women friends bring soup at zombie dawn

You can read Tom Clark’s biography, a detailed bibliography, a statement on poetics and a list of live links to all his pieces in Jacket magazine here, at Jacket’s Author Notes page.

Jacket 21 — February 2003  Contents page
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