Patricia Clark is Poet-in-Residence and Professor in the Department of Writing at Grand Valley State University. Author of four volumes of poetry, Patricia’s latest book is Sunday Rising. Her work has been featured on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily, also appearing in The Atlantic, Gettysburg Review, Poetry, Slate, and Stand. Recent work appears (or is forthcoming) in Kenyon Review, New England Review, Southern Humanities Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Prairie Schooner, Coal Hill Review, Plume, and elsewhere. Her new manuscript of poems is called Goodbye to the Poetry of Marble.
Repetition of the sun climbing and a golden clementine.
Bend to a task, learn to unclothe a clementine.
He said, “Let me into your life so I might, in sweet
time, know you.” It begins: intimacy of a clementine.
Here I might stroll, then I might lounge, and dream.
There is meditation in contemplating a clementine.
My voice jittered, a near betrayal of my plan.
Could seduction lie in sections of a clementine?
With my own eyes I witnessed ice-chunks drifting
down the river. Thin membranes divide a clementine.
Around a piano tuned just right, the duo sang.
The refrain circled round a girl—darling Clementine.
Mainly a winter fruit, they disappear in spring.
Stay, Patricia says, and linger long, my lovely clementine.
Rowing American Lake
Telling a friend how my father stayed calm
through broken bones, accidents, fish hooks
caught in his hat, thumb, or his right palm.
The girl trying to cast was me, my books
set aside for American Lake, a rowboat.
He teaches me to row silver water, and he looks
casual about it. “Pull each oar and keep us afloat.
Pick a point on the shore, aim toward it.”
I tremble even now, hearing the gentle note
love brought into his voice. Never a fit
when I blanched facing the wriggling worm,
a jagged cut. At work, he’d taken first aid—“Just sit
right there, and breathe deeply.” His words, a germ
of wisdom, always. Where do I look,
my father gone, to find that? Middle of the term
when the blues wail out our losses in snow-
melt and rain-drift. Other people’s parents
lying down for the last time. Stay calm, row.
Treatise on the Double Self
The Irish swallows take
risks, swooping under, around
the black picnic table,
near windows, shuttered,
then out to the tree circled by wire
solo on the lawn,
banking round to start again.
Low in grass, a scattering
of buttercups and companions
the ox-eye daisies,
making a galaxy
beneath our feet replacing sky,
No rain at the moment,
a blessing, everything’s soaked, dripping.
Here’s the double self, the one now,
the other of nine years ago,
did you see her white face
from the window,
or catch a glimpse of her shoulder
turning the corner, hallway meeting hall?
That’s the woman
who had a mother then,
which shows: hill of trees, then a field
sloping green and shorn down
to the lake’s edge—that’s how
this heart is, landscape
revealing where we’ve been and are.
Yesterday three times a bird sounded
its cry from pines—
staying hidden, not swooping out
like the swallows. Wet, I stopped in woods,
listening, wanting to see
its shape, was it dove, or pied
flycatcher? My attention
all went to the hidden one—
I’ve spent hours and months trying to know
my mother, now
that it’s too late.