two poems by Ken Clark

Turning The Year

Somewhere a young woman drops
her favorite picture frame and it shatters
at her feet: one more thing she won’t pack
for a new apartment, the collage pulled
from under glass shards, thrown away.

We keep time by things kept
or taken from us-tonight I begged her
under a moon at its largest this winter
just one more year, to stay & start
college here where there’s nothing
to ever do, where her boyfriend
isn’t.

But she is ready to swallow maps
& leave clasped textbooks for others,
go where the river bends in a crescent
and night skies glow with the dim fire
of chemical torches just a bit west
from her flat.

Where am I in an empty bedroom?
The quiet eats any shadows, the rough
voice of lecture muzzled & left
to convince itself a success.

Walking Down Chartres Street At Daybreak

Vendors fill wood-bins
with corn & peppers.
It’s a lowered jukebox-
a distant sound another day
makes getting under way.

From here one argument
is all the same in that polyglot
din a block over. Who needs
to know? Maria is upset again
with the gypsy Beate for hosing
last night’s puke & sputum
into her stall of sunglasses.

Ray-Ray wants to borrow
fifty dollars for the horses
in Lafayette, he says
to the Chicken Woman
who laughs like she has
for thirty years; toothless
and happy. Here, have
a drink, she tells him.

And they watch mules
clod along Decatur on
their way from the stable,
the pack animals’ blinders
decorated with fleur de lys
and gaudy bits of colored
glass.

That’s the scene & I’m not
even in the French Market.
Being there is easy as going
to sleep. The words under
the mind. Under the river.

On Chartres a patina tips
iron fence work & shopkeepers
spray down sidewalks, refuse
washed onto the street or
the neighbor’s space until
they wake to do the same.

In Pirate’s Alley the ghost
stops for chicory coffee
and thinks of things left
behind, those that linger-
the cobble brickwork peeks
out under blacktop in every
corner-the ghost knowing
it is a simple thing
to be happy here.

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