Patricia Clark is Poet-in-Residence and Professor in the Department of Writing at Grand Valley State University. She is the author of four books of poetry. Her poetry has appeared in magazines such as The Atlantic Monthly, Slate, Poetry, and Woman. She has also co-edited an anthology of contemporary women writers called Worlds in Our Words. Her chapbook of poems, Given the Trees, is one of the initial four in a series from the American Land Publishing Project. Clark graduated from the University of Washington (in economics), going on to receive an MFA in English and creative writing from the University of Montana and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Houston. Clark was invited with two other poets to open the Library of Congress’s noon reading series in Washington, D.C. in 2005.
Where My Kinglet Wishes to Go
Under my window, pink lupine,
gold poppies, and this bird
I name kinglet because it ate
seed, hopping through morning
like avian royalty. And the rain
held off so as not to harm its
ermine cloak. Clouds celebrate
when they can hold onto moisture,
then send it over those who deserve
a wetting. Nearby, a marquee tent
was constructed like a house, strapped down
to barrels at corners and middle, I saw
these filled with the weight of water.
Flooring laid, roof over grass.
And a worker climbed to hang a heliotrope
of lights. The kitchen saw an egg crack open
in a black pan, served with sun-gold cheese.
Sovereignty, then, inside the Big House and out—
feast of butter, queen on her oaken throne.
Portrait of My Lover as a Deep Lake
I’ve seen the way, O sweet,
rain streaks in across the water,
swan side to this side,
oddly west to east.
Partly the depths are sensed in color,
reflection: silver and green, green going to black.
It’s where the roots grow
down, where grebes dive.
It’s not ditch, puddle, or pond.
A motion like sea and bay, with moon-pulled waves.
Your fear: a healthy one, O sweet,
of rowing over deepest pools.
Freshwater eels, someone said, and things
that grasp: leeches, fingers, vines.
Be careful stepping in, walking round,
and reaching with oars.
But oh the pleasures of the smooth sail
when you get there, the glassy skin.
Portrait of My Lover as a Promenade along the Sea
Imagine concrete, and then,
in other places, ancient stone.
Duck under the rope, please,
to begin the way.
In some places, steep
stairs. Other places level
with a secure handrail.
cliff face down to wave-crashed
Someone stood out there, fishing.
Extreme danger of the stance.
Isn’t that how it is, O sweet,
taking our intimate risks?
Here, this breath.
Here, the outstretched hand.
Conversion Experience, Utah
A bearded man in the West lay down
among goats. Or maybe I should say,
first, he donned a goat suit.
In a future of hunting goats, he wanted
to understand them. Thus the suit,
his trailing a rocky path behind the herd.
Some hikers trudged along, though,
noticing a goat acting kind of funny.
They said, We thought maybe it was sick.
Goat-man retreated to scrub pine and rocks.
The other goats kept on munching grass.
One bleated at the hikers, a mournful Baaah.
Goat-man lay down among the herd, their legs
like birch saplings, and at night they all
huddled together, goat, goat, man, goat.
It was warmth that mattered. By then,
they all smelled the same—the furry pelt
odor of dust, sage, smoke, and sky.
Are you surprised his wife welcomed him home?
I’ve never seen stars like that, he told her
in bed. So many, he said they flattened him
with their stark white clarity, and God
entered his heart out there, sneaking in
like someone dressed in the hide of a goat.