Kevin Clark's poetry has appeared in numerous journals, including The Black Warrior Review, The Georgia Review, The Denver Quarterly, College English, and others. He recently won The Literary Review's Angoff Award. He has also published three chapbooks, including his most recent, One of Us (Mille Grazie Press). Clark teaches English at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo.
So many deaths and conjoinings, so many
cocktail parties on the slate patio,
but they never dig it out. It's the design:
heavy, clumsy at the grip, in the center
an odd, clumped relief
grown out of an underworld, a tangled
migraine. My widowed mother leans cat-still
against the door frame, peering
autistically into the kitchen—
but the secret eludes her.
She hasn't told us of her headaches.
Animals roam the frontal lobes.
I saw a movie with the venus fly trap
as the guiding symbol. So thickly rooted.
Giant knobs in the dirt. Portentous.
The platter is like that, heaped
like a king's last meal—only
he can't accept the pronouncement
floating from the physician's mouth,
he's called for the jugglers.
When my mother
shudders from her vision
and reaches into the cabinet for tea,
the vines begin to grow, shift, stretch
like tentacles in the bad dusk.
A friend tells me an apostrophe
has appeared in the only word of his mantra.
I'm forty-seven, my mother at seventy
can't figure out where it went.
Not the time. The peace.
The platter rocks as if to call
from the cupboard. I see now
as always it's begun.
But we want to refuse the feast.
Its silence. Its elaboration.
Highball, Princeton Station
Beneath his round chin, a dimpled windsor
Wants to say: I'm ample,
At rest, my own
Man. Its stripes a regimental green
And black, a lush
Savagery, he once thought. But
He has seen
Between two mirrors
How the hairless flesh
Sags from the shoulder blades.
From his window seat he takes in
The fierce, young husband
On the platform moments before hoisting aboard,
The chrome coffee cannister
Raised like a highball.
A sharp wife in latex
waves from her SUV. Now once more
They are bound
For the delirious city. He sleeps
And dreams the day
Turns its light down. When he wakes
At the same start of the track, he opens
To his own wife, her lift
And whimsy, sweats
And running shoes, now home
Cutting perfect lengths of celery
For his glass, purling
About her brilliant students, her plans
For dinner. Their children
Leap through his vision,
Then sink quickly into the humid dusk
wheeling up from the horizon
like an animal cloud—
A good drink
Delivered beyond reach.