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Tom Clark

Three Poems 


A Lesson in Geography
Failure of sympathy buries you
in the sand, like the body of
a person at the beach
in your imagination, where
the deer still come down to the water
to utter their spontaneous cries
into the oncoming headlights
of the approaching wave of evening,
that time when your dreams run wild
dogs back into the caves in the rocks
out of fright, and deference
to the way you feel. Baby if you don't
understand I'm sorry it's time,
and I guess I'm sorry too as
and if it's too late to provide
sand castles with
bridges across their moats. Wimps
do that, break
into particulate matter, like grains
of sand in the bucket
of a child who remains in chains.
The life of it is in the details,
anyway. That away lies the equator.
Sacrifice a goat when you cross.
Fleeting Promises
This late hour in the night of dreams
the onslaught of the past surprises
erasing the way back to the crystal clear cave
unable to be caught by light when I fall
under the deep blue rain slick streets
headlights on the wall throwing silhouettes
older than movies of dead angels
whose marble wings are shredded by raked clouds
Oct. 28
The day of the dead when
the veil between us and them
is thinnest         eyelash
kitty breath         umbrella flutter
psychic butterfly -
A whole procession of them coming
pushing through the thin
mesh of the net - the sugar candy
shedding of the skin and how
it lets the wind blow through the veins
the dance of the skulls and when
the spinning of the little mechanic
inside the toy clock stops
the dark man carrying two suitcases
steps from the now no longer
moving train -
That's the day when
I know someone will be
no longer waiting,
the unborn child said.
I invented what I wanted to say
in case anybody out there,
on a cold grey day in autumn,
wanted to hear the thoughts
of the dead -
I opened the door and
in flew a moth, thinking
twilight came early


Tom Clark was born (1941) and raised in Chicago and attended the universities of Michigan (B.A.) and Cambridge (M.A.). He did postgraduate research on the poetry of Ezra Pound, resulting in a thesis, "The Formal Structure of The Cantos." From England in the 1960s he edited a series of mimeograph magazines featuring a generation of younger poets who would also appear in The Paris Review during his ten-year tenure as poetry editor (1963–1973).

Tom Clark photo

His own poetry has appeared in many volumes, from the 1960s (Stones, Air) through such recent books as a poetic life of John Keats (Junkets on a Sad Planet) and a poetic history of the Northwest Coast fur trade (Empire of Skin); his other poetry titles include When Things Get Tough on Easy Street, Paradise Resisted, Disordered Ideas, Fractured Karma, Sleepwalker's Fate, Like Real People and White Thought.

He has written many books on sports and popular culture, as well as a number of biographies of writers: Damon Runyon, Ted Berrigan, Jack Kerouac, Robert Creeley and Charles Olson. He has written fiction and literary reviews for many newspapers and journals, including The New York Times, Times Literary Supplement, Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle (for which he has served as poetry critic since 1978). He has taught literature at a number of colleges and universities, and since 1986 has been a member of the Core Faculty in Poetics at New College of California.
You can read Tom Clark's review of Rachel Loden's «Hotel Imperium» in Jacket # 12.

Baseball card photo courtesy the author, copyright © 1990 Little Sun


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