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Category: Charlie Clark

An Apple Waiting to Be Carved

In 1892 a man awoke wishing his name meant

detour on the way to pleasure because the angel

wings he sprouted in the night, though useless,

came with the most arduous requirements

for care. His neck grew long and exhausted

always having to reach his face around to peck

away the chiggers and the grit. He went through

the streets wrapped in so many gray scarves

people mistook him for a cloud. Though he was

more than just a font of gloom. He translated

Medea and The Bacchae into French. The scripts,

while obviously the work of an amateur,

were warmly received. Other things happened,

possibly the most important being that when he died

his bones came to rest upon an English heath.

Henry Moore, age eleven, walking lost in one brown

chill of spring, already convinced he would

never adequately render a single human face,

found the bones, mistaking them for the dead

branches of a tree that had tried in its sprouting

to turn human. It was like watching fire,

Henry in his later years said of this moment.

It was like watching fire, then becoming fire.

Suddenly you could make everything as you do burn.

from The Newest Employee of the Museum of RuinFind more by Charlie Clark at the library

Copyright © 2020 Charlie Clark
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Carrying My Brother to the Ambulance

This close, I for the fourth decade notice how

beautiful I find the stark black lashes of his eyes.

It’s autumn—after autumn, actually—everything

awash in the given plenty of spent leaves. Ice

in the air despite the sun. A few bars of something

bracing I can’t quite place grace the whole of the cradle

that we’ve made. I slow as if to ask what song is that?

I can’t stop noticing, which is already a kind of asking.

Which is one way to have a story go on without end.

Another way to keep a story from ending

is never to start telling it. My brother’s silent,

split, spilt, bruised, half-buried in his milk, gone

red at the tongue, orange at the eye. So entwined

and still I don’t once stagger in the dirt.

I still have my brother. My hands know this

by the weight. As if the worth of life were knowing.

I never knew I could carry him. Now it’s another story.

Once I caught his front teeth with a bat.

Once I saw a dog chasing a child and I tackled it.

I didn’t think of fear until its body was here,

livid in my arms. By then there was no time. Now,

out of my hands, my hands grate air like they are the place

in the earth where roots continue to turn dirt into themselves

while above a blade has clipped the bloom completely.

from The Newest Employee of the Museum of RuinFind more by Charlie Clark at the library

Copyright © 2020 Charlie Clark
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Elegy to a Black Bear Head Poorly Stuffed and Mounted

Whoever did this must be

kin to that matador I saw

booed out of the arena for not

basking longer in the task.

Why else would your snout

be sewn in that hasty, ragged

line and set off center?

Your eyes are two wool holes

with nail heads for pupils.

When I peer into the rust

of them I can’t even see

an oblong version of myself.

Bear, if this is an elegy,

you ought to have a name

more specific than Bear.

Not that you care, but I am

going to call you Lou Reed.

Because whoever made him

quit working with the face

still a bunch of half-done

lumps of clay. Also because

he’s one whose output

illustrates how art is not

getting what you want.

Art is getting only what

he decides to give you.

Lou Reed, you give me

the impression that a career

spent so close to killing

only becomes more intolerable

as it goes on. Even if

one is elegant, thoughtful,

and perfect at it, after

a while one’s limbs are

going to revolt. Lou Reed,

this is what I think. When

the taxidermist hammered

those nails into your eyes

it was the final step

in his coming to hate

anyone who could look

at his life’s work work and not

regret being human.

Once he finished up with you,

he left his studio. He walked

to a lake where a pair of swans

were doing circles. He liked

the elegance of their bodies

on the water. He gave thanks

that the way they mate for

life makes these creatures

no less adamant and cruel

First he fed the swans

the crackers he had brought.

When those were gone

he let them have his hands.

from The Newest Employee of the Museum of RuinFind more by Charlie Clark at the library

Copyright © 2020 Charlie Clark
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Giving Stuff Up

One friend decided to forego sugar for a month. Another the word wept.

A third quit therapy in favor of praising the aubergine tinge in the clouds

that served as backdrop to the tree limbs falling through his mother’s yard.

Sometimes I want to give up living by lists and information, yet I still want

to tell you how this morning I watched a man launch some kites on a beach.

When the wind had a good hold of one, he’d take a lighter to its string.

He must have doused them in gas beforehand because the flames ran fast,

caught the kites, and the ensuing red shreds frothed upon the vapors.

Listen, if you’ve never heard about the time Shakespeare got drunk,

snuffed the candelabra, and in its dark tried to wrestle every member of his cast,

that’s because damage had paired with sorrow even then. That fiasco was nothing.

Where he lived, the wind could change direction and for two whole weeks

the house would smell like gas. That’s half of how he came up with the mist

for Macbeth’s witches. The other half was theft. After the headaches passed,

everything in those fumes seemed like a dream. Even weasels lolled in the grass,

like pets built out of licorice. I don’t know how he invented the words

gust or radiance in such haze, but I’m glad for their perfection. The modern match

was perfected in 1805. Before that, every burn meant tinder, flint, and steel.

So that man igniting kites still could have done it by the Thames in 1597,

although I like to imagine whatever material he’d have used to build them

proved clumsy in the river’s wind, every flaming body rising no more

than a few yards before it plunged. Or maybe the fault lay with the wind. Listen.

Seeing them through the window, Shakespeare claimed the first one as his son.

The rest became the angels he renounced, hearing thereafter only human tongues.

from The Newest Employee of the Museum of RuinFind more by Charlie Clark at the library

Copyright © 2020 Charlie Clark
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

What the Backyard Will Not Give

Not doubloons.

Not carrots.

Not trees.

Therefore

not shade.

Therefore

not rest.

Not even

the dream of it.

So not grace.

Not even green.

It will give dust.

It will give grease.

It will give up

the greasy

fettered feathers

of birds busily

becoming heat.

But not worms.

Not enough,

at least.

Nor the lush

promise

their thriving

might provide.

Therefore

not daisies.

Nor tulips.

Therefore not

the eye’s relief.

It will give haze.

It will give glass.

Flung in two

thousand

arcing shards.

It will give

a modern history

of trash. Cups

and plates

of polystyrene

and pine-scented

hand-sized

cardboard trees.

It will give

my daughter

rashes, burns,

and bleeds.

So it will

give grief.

Enough to

chafe on

in the slotted

August light

and breeze.

And stones.

It will

give stones.

One whole

rainbow’s

ragged range.

Shucked

by boots.

By fingers.

By the trowel’s

buckled blade.

Enough

to stack.

To study,

catalog,

and grade.

Though

doing so

will not bless

this place.

Though I

do—despite

myself—

still wish

to know

their names.

from The Newest Employee of the Museum of Ruin
Find more by Charlie Clark at the library

Copyright © 2020 Charlie Clark
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.