In My Own Words: C.M. Clark

CM Clark

C is for Cat: The Poetics of Embedment



Sometimes poetry begins for me with a cat sleeping at my shoulder. Something about that vibration plowing in and out with the breathing, up one furrow, down another. Someone once said “verse” begins with the plowed line, the seeded line: along one row, then the deliberate deliberated “turn” onto another.

I have had too many years of breaking down poems and poetry, snapping that loose thread that holds the seamed cloth and pulling until knit and purl unravel into wavy yarn, like tangled wet hair, no longer pliant, no longer young.

Poems are my high school sweethearts, just me and the words holding hands in the hallways. Then, there is no moment more exciting than the one ready to uncork, the next word appearing unwilled, just stunning chance at work. The days and months turn of their own accord. I meet you at the bus stop in the Fall. We hurry aboard, impatient to press against each other, wool to wool, those chillying days. We ride our bikes the long miles in the Spring, sometimes never arriving, distracted by the lure of daffodils aiming skyward, tangents along a line. Then the prom, and the unimaginable, unanticipated day after – postpartum blues in an off-kilter key. There’ll be others, we know. But then, there was only the silence, table for one, there, on the blank page.

I don’t hate poetry, but I don’t always love it, either. Maybe poems now are my mature relationships, the willingness to choose this, choose you – over and over. We are the trajectories of our choices. We can amble like a sine curve, or meander randomly, hoping, knowing daffodils will wait at the path’s turn to fallow field. But barefoot footprints leave no mark. Nothing to mourn, nothing to say

There was one boy who especially liked the daffodils. Since they only bloomed briefly, the window of opportunity was small, especially after a colder than usual Winter, and forecasts for a shorter than normal Spring. How that boy reveled in all that yellow! For him, even the oncoming of everything green was eclipsed. I don’t know if that field still exists. Maybe it was just some poem, after all.

Now in the Spring I wait for the frogs to start crooning. They are my new boyfriends, maybe even my prince among them. I found my poem this year among the mangrove roots, tangled like wire, like old fishing lines, like lines deleted from erased stanzas.

“F is for Frog”

The frogs were out tonight in full chest, the buffos and the croakies bask
and buzz in the hollows, camouflaged in canal bank boudoirs, slim
and complicated with water weeds, grass
cuttings and spring pollen. Frog song trails
like a lariat snaking, lashes
out toward neighboring boglands and those
closer to the bay, outshining
by virtue of their affinity to salt.
Fascinating this glamorous rumbling in the mangrove, and flexing
their thickened throats, the call comes
for a compatible partner in these early nights of not yet
spring. Dry spring looming and pulsing frogs.
Rainclouds still dry as dust. Will
one more spring find me? Is it
possible? I still know the knife surface stir,
that stir, that stir that swells, the upswell
of clamor in this dry intermission, where everything’s
denied, but nothing’s
desired. That’s the dust
of midlife, the lily’s sonorous dust, the frog throat rasp
the dust of dry, scraped calluses,
petrifying biopsies of old skin
samples, my own dry fading. Out beyond
invisible evening, abandoned nests give way,
some fiberglass threads caught
in the branches, tracing slivers of violet sky. And
the angled silence. Why do people die in the spring?
How can they?
Is it a sightless stare,
a last squat thrust toward life, or
pouring out what’s left, emptying
the glass of seed, chewed rind? I finger aromas
of dry old pages, dusty
words, where there had been books
once. But now the frogs are awake
and alert. And they won’t stop, or be stopped. Neither fish
nor fowl, they blink
without mercy.

Who says cats are fickle? This cat sits by my shoulder until I make a move. She is loyal to the purr, fierce-knit in the face of my doubt. She keeps her claws sheathed, pats me with her pads. But the claws are there. Unseen, unspoken, embedded within the purr, but present like the one verb that makes the poem pop.I guess there’s the lesson – Lick your fur to lie flat, wake up when food appears and keep a sharp eye for lizards. They’re tasty, but hide in unsavory corners.

About the Author

C.M. Clark’s poetry has appeared in a variety of publications, including Gulf Stream magazine, the Florida Center for the Literary Arts anthology Write Here, and she is a frequent contributor to the online journal, Asili. She has also been involved in a number of multimedia collaborations with other artists, including “COMPLEMENT/Art Basel,” a video project, as well as “Now Taste This,” an annual event pairing poets and local gourmet chefs. Her work has been published in the recent collection The Blue Hour, and in the artbook Pillow Talk, a joint project with painter Georges LeBar. For several years running, she has appeared at the Miami Book Fair International as part of the Write Out Loud reading series. Clark lives in Miami, Florida, with her husband.
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