Ann Clark's debut poetry collection, No Witness, is now available from Jane's Boy Press via our online store at this link and at all major retailers.
Date of Publication: May 22, 2015
Available via Jane's Boy e-tail store and all major retailers.
When she was six, Ann Clark was taken aside by her father, who told her, "Sometimes the things you say to be funny are cruel and make people cry. You should think before you speak." She wrote her first poem shortly thereafter (about dying flowers and their desire for revenge), and has relied on poetry as interpretation and mediation of the world ever since. Drawing on dysfunctionality, twisted humor, and sorrow, Ann Clark's work has appeared in Poetry Quarterly, Ragazine, Adanna, Blueline, and The Good Men Project, and is forthcoming in The Florida Literary Review. A semi-finalist in The Naugatuck River Review's narrative poetry contest for 2014, Ann has also been nominated for a Pushcart Prize for "Unlucky," which appeared in The Gambler (2014). She teaches full-time at SUNY Jefferson in Watertown, NY, and lives with her husband, two dogs, 1 cat, and 17 horses, at the end of a dead-end road somewhere no one will think to look.
I am wondering where they go to do it.
These men who never cry in public
must have some secret place,
some workshop, back pasture, or den
where they finally let themselves crouch down,
curl in on themselves, hug their knees to their chests
as they did when they were boys of three of four.
It must feel like choking at first,
the gasping, ragged cries of real grief
that cannot be contained
but cannot be let out in front of anyone
and are saved up until the only witnesses
are hawks wheeling over an empty field
or hard worn drills and wrenches in a dim tool shed.
How hard is that--
to wait, to tell oneself
not now, not here--
and then, when in that lonely spot,
is it like a reformed drinker
finally throwing back that raw swallow
of whiskey or an ex-smoker lighting up?
You see them at the grave site,
blank-faced, their eyes stretched wide,
and only that awful motion of the jaw
gives them away.
Otherwise, they might be at a cattle auction,
sizing up the heifers or deciding whether
this year is the last they will bother
farming it at all.
When my father-in-law died,
my husband never cried,
not the whole time we spent
at that dreadful bedside,
watching a strong man go weak.
“If he can’t swallow, push the pills
in and give him some water,”
My mother-in-law said. “He’ll choke ‘em down.”
It took him too long to go.
But my father would tear up
at the slightest reminder
of my mother after she left him.
“Are you crying?” I’d ask,
afraid his sorrow would drown me.
And when she died,
he was astonished,
never quite believing there could
be a world without her in it.
My husband is confused by grief,
patting my shoulder as if brushing off dust.
But after his father’s death,
he was off in the pastures,
back beyond the far fields where
no one but the hawks could witness.
-Now available in No Witness: New and Selected Poems
(originally published Poetry Quarterly Spring 2013)
Love and Other Things You Fall into
pits artfully covered with jungle leaves and branches
that give way to drop the unwary three meters down
onto shit-smeared sharpened bamboo stakes,
the kind of deep sleep monitored by EEG’s,
where only a tube down the throat
reminds the lungs to inflate
and a nurse is warned by an electric shriek
to suction away the crap that comes
out of the mouth, the useless detritus that chokes,
like biting your nails, snapping gum,
smoking, and heroin,
you fall into bad company,
into a daze,
into a restless sleep,
a daydream during class and miss the most important
equation, the one the whole test is about,
the test that counts for 60% of your grade
in the course required for graduation,
and you end up a bum when you could
have been a contender, Charlie.
You fall down and go boom,
fall for a line,
the same stupid trick, a scam,
a Nigerian prince who wants
to make you rich.
You fall and can’t get up,
and they find you there,
eight days later
after Mittens has eaten the soft bits,
your eyes, your beautiful blue eyes,
let me tell you about your eyes,
you’re falling into a trance,
you’re falling in love.
-Forthcoming 2016, TBD