Three Poems by Patricia Clark

Patricia Clark

Patricia Clark

Patricia Clark is the author of Self-Portrait with a Million Dollars, her sixth book of poems, and three chapbooks. She has work just out (or forthcoming) in Plume, The Southern Review, North American Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Cimarron Review, Pedestal, Quartet, and Innisfree Poetry Journal. Her poem “Astronomy: ‘In Perfect Silence’” was chosen to go to the moon as part of the Lunar Codex on a NASA Space X flight in fall 2024.


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,
                                               curving up
           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,
invisible, obscured.
                                    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.