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Tag: Charlie Clark

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.


not shade.


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


their thriving

might provide.


not daisies.

Nor tulips.

Therefore not

the eye’s relief.

It will give haze.

It will give glass.

Flung in two


arcing shards.

It will give

a modern history

of trash. Cups

and plates

of polystyrene

and pine-scented


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


ragged range.


by boots.

By fingers.

By the trowel’s

buckled blade.


to stack.

To study,


and grade.


doing so

will not bless

this place.

Though I



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.