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Tom Clark

Eleven poems

Southeast Wind
Some Late Johnsoniana
Moviegoing (1940s)
Ticky Tacky
The Man of Ouray
Message from the Captain

Southeast Wind

Nobody’s home, but the For Sale sign
speaks of a collapsed urban economy
and parked just down the block
in an undelivered future
is an abandoned car
with idiotic beeps emanating from it
messages to the past
from the absence where we are
the wind setting off mechanized alarms
an animated bedlam
in the night


The rain it raineth every day. As if with particular intent.

Then there are the nights. So long. Here in the rainforest.

The rain accumulates in the sagging declivity that was once a gutter. And seeps. Sometimes a cascade. Sometimes a torrent. Sometimes drop... by... drop.

Life on earth. These are heaven’s gifts. What is that sodden smell? The odour of a clogged drain? The redolent memorial of a weeping cloud, marooned on the celestial shelves past its sell-by date?

The earth is a woman, dreamed by the shipwrecked ancient on his lost island, prostrate on the soggy ground, inhaling the moist humus, letting the dark fragrance soak into his soul, which she permits him to do because she is not selective, she will bless the evil with the good, she is life, and will come where she was not invited and whether the timing is right or wrong.

And the timing always is what it is. The clock is always ticking. Time moves. But goes nowhere. Advances, falls back, starts again. Tick by tick. Drop by drop. Water will wear down a stone, given long enough.

A heart is not made of stone, but may turn stony. Or soggy. Makes no difference to that weeping cloud, which will go on weeping. Makes no difference to that moist and fragrant earth, which will go on giving up its dark fruits.


Don’t know much about history
But I know the sandglass says time is always running out

Don’t know much about biology
But I know the winged figure of genius has a headache

Which may have something to do with the human skull
Fading into the truncated rhombohedron

The way a watermark on a historical document fades
Into history (which I don’t know much about)


Sacrificing to the limiting demands of the opus
is no way to start your day.  The opus
itself is like a kind of canvas, with what
has not really been lived through, only idly imagined,

splattered more or less randomly
upon it.  The frigging fjords
are no place to build your birdnest of dreams.
The instructions on the brain kit mean zilch.

The dreams are found there in the fjords ab ovo.
The ocean moves deeply in these dreams,
creating dark spots in the encephalogram
into which terror and the desire for beauty swim.

Some Late Johnsoniana

September 12 1783
Anna Williams was buried
who’d sat up blind to
drink tea with him
in the small hours
mournful conversation
“I do not know
that I have anything
to forgive you
I have set my house in
113 sq. inches


hot sleepless
disturbed at night
got up & slept in a chair


was dejected
prostrate mind
opium lassitude
but remembered
the Latin word
for gooseberries

Moviegoing (1940s)

We dwell in our plush gumstuck viewing thrones.
Buck’s still caught on that log when the house lights come
Up. Shocked by the return of a real life
We were doing very well without, thank you,
We recognize that image was a white lie,

With no more substance than a dream,
No more lasting than the gift by which we breathe,
No more lasting, that is, than itself.
And as in waking from the dream too soon
One forgets its truths, we turn back into lumps,

Resigned to our several lump personae
Washed up amid alien popcorn boxes,
Moving out past velvety chains into
Cool silks of the night, Rita Hayworth lost,
Stars widening their vast indifferent gaze.


If on the moon palace stairs
A thin wash of water colour bleeding

Across the body chemistry frontier blurs,
As traffic slowly hones the blade of evening

And scatters its eyes across dusk’s drift and growth,
That sharp outline we think of as reality,

It would perhaps be time to go to Plan B  —
That is, to try to remember the colours of the morning.

Ticky Tacky

Life should have enough arresting moments
to create at least a tropism in Xanadu

between the bamboo swizzle sticks
and the sarongs soaked in lizard spittle

revolving ceiling fans banana trees
birds of paradise and pineapple daiquiris

but little is expected by those who
dwell in the environs of the lawn bowling court

for them it is a perennial Mondo Samarkanda
a pointed tin roof above cute wood shingles

the ghost of Reagan bumbling through the palms
amid a sunset out of Papua New Guinea

like a great snork bird homing in on orange juice

The Man of Ouray

Down here among the miniature hotels
Rooming houses saloons feed and grain depots
Diminutive stables with horses so small
Lilliputian persons go about their lives
Beneath the huge repression notched massif
Of the nineteenth century frontier
With its Jamesian sentence suspended
In a chasm of ingenuous disbelief
The woman who comes out to wed the Ouray man
Has been told of the strange peace of mining gold
But as they huddle in the exploding shaft
The man says I build everything like a tower
To get to my dreams, which were carved in these slopes
By striating winds before creation


There remains the problem of not being able to see one’s loved ones again, up against the problem of never having really seen them in the first place. Were they simply too close to be looked at? All one would see would be the irrelevant detail, like the pile texture of the grey towel the confined defenseman threw over a camera in the penalty box. A coarse grainy fabric approximately the texture of brain tissue, going out over the satellite, like the cry of the blind muezzin in the mosque, a star of incalculable feeling in the great algebraic night.

Message from the Captain

Not much time before landing, might as well say all this at last. A little wrath gave me a place to hide my face in, but when that passed and I looked in the eyes of those I’d left here to wander alone under the low ceiling of the empty sky, mercy measured the extent of my great openness, and I said: I won’t say one more word; and I dashed my headset to the cockpit floor.

Nothing mars the clarity of this calm desert night until I will it. There’s a lot of cloud cover as we go down. The departure of the mountains and the removal of the hills may well ensue, but not the ending of this feeling of deep peace waiting at the end of the landing strip; into which, as on a ship drifting after being wrecked in a storm, one must belatedly and unexpectedly happen. I think I can make out the runway lights.

Tom Clark, 2008, by Mark Gould

Tom Clark, 2008, by Mark Gould

Tom Clark’s most recent books are: The New World (Libellum, 2009); Trans/Versions (Libellum, 2009); Problems of Thought (Effing/Skanky Possum, 2009); Something in the Air (Shearsman, 2010); Feeling for the Ground (BlazeVOX, 2010); Starlight and Shadow (e-book) (Ahadada, 2010). He blogs at: 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.

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