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Tom Clark

Two poems

O Friend!

Don’t be a stranger. Forty years later
Has absence made the heart grow fonder
Or am I forgetting the danger
That lurks in reunions, the worm in
The apple of nostalgia’s blind eye?
Before we’ve even met, a voice says
We’ve got to stop meeting like this
In a field hospital of deep space
Outside the fray of hurly burly decades,
Old days piled upon more old days hurled
Together like apples and oranges
Crushed in a blender. So wide appears
The vacancy between me and those days...
Which yet have such self presence in my mind
That sometimes when I think of them I seem
One risible ancient dude split into two
Consciousnesses, conscious of myself
And of some other being whose endless joys
Were prolonged in summer till the late light failed.
Then all through the night, moonbeams. Twinkling stars
Edged the black clouds. From day to day, one lived.
Or is this just my rose-colored
Time machine lens creating a fictive
Happiness that never really existed?
Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t want to go back
And live those battles over. But were
There really wars, or did these injuries come
From nonstop love-ins? What was I just saying?
What past distracts me from this fractured presence?
How fine things were in the morning of the world
Said the jumper from the tall building, halfway down,
To himself. You must change your life. Then he woke
Into the cold dark morning that is,
Shocked by the familiar impact
Of reality, that joke that is always
On the one who attempts to tell it,
Once more having failed to change his life. O Friend,
The world and life are one. If I could write the book
Of the world as I found it, would your life
Be in it? You feel me? Would your world be there?

Fireside Chat

You really think free advice is worth money?
An old ghost rising up clammier than ever,
You can hear his teeth rattling. Let’s call
Him Fear Itself, and nestle up closer
To the warm and fatherly radio
Whence issue deep and reassuring words.
At the other end of the transmission
A world of static and black-edged clouds away
You can hear the fire crackling in the hearth
And if you strain your ears you might make out
A distant barking, perhaps the voice of Falla,
Woolly anachronism from a lost epoch.
Dogs speak in unintelligible words. Arf!
I take that back: unintelligible
To us. And we’re not reassured. Crisis
Of confidence time, then: credit default
Occurs when you can’t buy what they’re saying.
But wait, did you ever? Bought situation
City all these years and now someone’s
Surprised? Do crocodiles cry rivers
In order to have someplace to swim? Time for
Regulation arrives at one minute
Before the sun yo-yos up into the sky
And that tinny barking starts up again. Woof!
High time to begin drawing limits to thought.
This may be a fight for life. We may find
Both sides of the limit unthinkable. We may
Have to be able to think what can’t be thought,
Credit crunch or no. Credo means I believe
In crop circles. Or did I mean church
May be the last sanctuary of deceived
Believers in the free market dream?
You’ll find a crescent-shaped scar on my wrist
To prove to you this was no mere nightmare.
I’m in a weakened condition so go easy.
What can I do but hand over the payroll?

Tom Clark, photo by Mark Gould

Tom Clark, photo by Mark Gould

Tom Clark’s most recent poetry books are Threnody (Effing Press, 2006), Light and Shade: New and Selected Poems (Coffee House Press, 2006), and Early Warning (Walnut Creek, 2008). He lives and walks with Beauty in the night now and then in northern California.
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.

Copyright Notice: Please respect the fact that all material in Jacket magazine is copyright © Jacket magazine and the individual authors and copyright owners 1997–2010; it is made available here without charge for personal use only, and it may not be stored, displayed, published, reproduced, or used for any other purpose.