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Mr. Dreamy

Now when I see a night

that’s weak with clouds,

it makes me nervous.

All those rings

wrenched around the moon.

There are rhymes I don’t remember

that say whatever it is

such a sky’s rising

supposedly portends.

Whatever it is, I feel it.

Sometimes I wish

the night were unnecessary.

Most nights that I feel that way

I feel the same

about day come daybreak.

See the sun bleeding

through the trees? Not being

a sailor doesn’t make you

any safer from it. I used to think

being left-handed meant

I was more likely to die

in a car wreck. Turns out

the biggest risk is living.

There is a grimness

to that thought; something

shallow and permanent.

When I want to be

better than that,

I give myself

one of Whitman’s catalogs

to chew on. It doesn’t last,

that first, capacious bubble of patience.

However well he may have

wandered and adored it,

Whitman knew

the world is a livid vale of dust,

also that it’s insane

with blood, and he never even

wept in West Virginia.

When snow

surprised everyone in late

April in New Jersey, 1890,

did Whitman’s neighbors

roll their eyes

at all of his raw praise?

Even if they weren’t farmers,

they likely knew

what damage spring snows can do.

Did he? One book I’m reading

makes the claim that

“Whitman disliked farming

with some passion.”

In my one year

as a farmhand I laid fire pots

between orchard lines

whenever it would snow.

Everything about those hours—

the limbs’ frigid,

fractal beauty, briefly

outgrowing my discomfort

with the open—

I detested and desire.

Even sipping schnapps

between the rows, how

the darkness gave everything

the gauzy, aquatic depth

of the impersonal

and alluring. Going through,

setting down the tiny burning bowls,

I was as slow about that

as I was everything. My boss

called me Mr. Dreamy

and meant it

as an insult. I haven’t

gotten over it so much

as tried to sculpt my life

such that my being

dreamy isn’t going to cost

anyone’s bottom line.

One harvest day that year

I forgot which way

the road knifed and flipped

the truck

and walked away.

When the ambulance arrived,

I smiled and tried to wave it by.

When my boss arrived

he threw a wrench at me.

It was dark by then.

I’d been sitting there for hours.

The sky was clear.

The moon

blew through it.

The road below

was lit bright

with our tremendous apples.

My whole life

I have wondered

what’s become of me.

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.

Published in Charlie Clark Poems

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.