Poetry, Uncategorized

The Moth

The Moth

A moth, I flutter
                ‘bout thee, flame.
I am silent. I pantomime my desire.
For thee, bright delirious fire, I pine.
In thee myself I find
Mute, dancing,
An inaccuracy in motion,
A charcoal glimmer of
   light reflected;
          aching, afraid.

     I burn, love:
                   thou hast burnt me.

© 1999 David Clark

Comments: I wrote this poem sometime in 1998 or 1999 for a girl I was in love with. I gave it to her as a Valentine’s Day gift, I think, hoping it would be sweet and romantic. I’m not sure what she really thought of it, but in retrospect a year later, I realized that the piece was far more expressive of our actual relationship than I had wanted to recognize at writing.

Originally, as now, the thirteenth line read “aching, afraid.” Years later, I showed the poem to my M.F.A. thesis advisor, Kate Knapp Johnson (who is fantastic, by the way), and she suggested removing that one first word. I think I see her point—it may border on the cliché, perhaps, and “seething” and “wanting” are possibly enough—but I keep going back and forth between the two possibilities. There is a very nice rhythm set up by “seething, wanting, aching,” with three trochees (BAH buh BAH buh BAH buh), which is then broken by the iamb of “afraid” (buh BAH); the same pattern and pattern destruction are echoed in sense, as well, since the first three words are all more positive, and describe an attraction, a desire, while the fourth is more negative, and indicates a repulsive force. This sort of build and shift places a whole lot of weight on that one, final word.

At a talk once, the late, great Thomas Lux, discussing lists, emphasized the importance of getting each term, and especially the last one, right. Done well, a good list packs efficient, powerful punch. He was, at the time, I thought, talking mostly about choosing words in terms of how their meaning plays together, but clearly meaning isn’t the only thing you need to consider; something that Lux certainly knew and meant even though he didn’t explicitly spell it out for us. In that spirit, I think I might opt to keep “aching” in, at least for now.

This poem was first published in Small Press Collective (a student literary journal from Reed College) in 2000, I believe.

Fiction, Poetry

The Scaffold

He had, in the end, made his choice. There were those things he loved—the gun parts, their machine oil tang, the powder going in and the acrid smoke after firing, the camaraderie of war brothers, the clacking, hungry jaws of the hounds—and there were those that were scarred into him—the wails of the stricken, the rolling rumble of enemy engines, artillery fire approaching like some terrible countdown. The contortions of the dead, the irrevocably wounded. The stink of trench disease. The putrid water, the chemical food, the rampant shits. In the end, it was these that weighed the most, and these that he had hoped somehow to set aside.

His niece had always loved the plank swing under the elm in his yard. He had pushed her on it, many a time. Her shrill giggles. He had hoped, laying down arms, deserting—he had hoped that he would at last win himself time to do more of that. To swing with her, even.

Well, now he was swinging.


Author’s Note: This one one of two pieces published in TL;DR: A Redditwriters Mixtape, Volume 1, available on Amazon from TL;DR Press.

Also, if you back me on Patreon, you can see videos of me reading this work and many others, as well as plenty of other goodies!