Devil Ceases to See the Point in Introspection

Poetry / Charlie Clark

:: Devil Ceases to See the Point in Introspection ::

One night he watched a whole old cypress burn. 

When morning came he turned the dirt to confirm even its roots 

were just soft shots of cinder, then thought, now what? 

He knows the research underscores how important it is

that summer leave your children bored. One girl dug 

herself a hole, shoulder deep, in the dust that he’d engendered. 

For years he kept tabs on her 

to ensure it was the best thing she’d ever done and that she knew it. 

He knows all the metaphors people make of holes. 

Here, for once, the origin was real. She towed it like a soul, 

its insides a growing plug of dust, crotch hair, and hazy solar rays. 

To say she loved herself in spite of it is to misunderstand spite. 

The self. Love. Holes. When her modesty climbed into the earth, it burned. 

When he came to claim the ash he couldn’t stand the thing that rose. 


From the writer

:: Account ::

I don’t believe in the dev­il, but I do find the notion of the dev­il fas­ci­nat­ing. And gen­er­a­tive. Dit­to the super­nat­ur­al. For close to a decade now I’ve been writ­ing the occa­sion­al loose son­net that uses the dev­il as a start­ing-off point. They usu­al­ly come to me when I’m stuck with a sub­ject or a few stray lines that I find inter­est­ing but can’t make cohere with any suc­cess. Enter the dev­il. Hav­ing the char­ac­ter of the dev­il present (even if the dev­il isn’t actu­al­ly present beyond the title of a par­tic­u­lar poem) pro­vides an ener­gy and a strate­gic posi­tion from which to pro­ceed. It often helps the work cohere and to break through to some­thing sur­pris­ing. The idea that one can write through a character—not nec­es­sar­i­ly write a per­sona poem, but engage in world build­ing by means of a fic­tion­al­ized mask—is some­thing that my wife (poet and schol­ar Sasha West) has done a lot of think­ing about. Her work on this has been cru­cial for me in terms of clar­i­fy­ing what kind of explo­ration I’m engaged in with this kind of poem. In addi­tion to Sasha’s work, this poem is indebt­ed to a hand­ful of writ­ers. Name­ly, those I’ve been read­ing. (I find what­ev­er I’m read­ing has a huge influ­ence on what I write.) When writ­ing this poem, I had been read­ing through the lat­er books of Geof­frey Hill (Speech Speech and The Orchards of Syon), the Alan Moore run of Swamp Thing comics, and Svet­lana Alexievich’s Voic­es from Cher­nobyl. Liv­ing in the lan­guage of all three writ­ers pro­vid­ed a sort of eerie, unreal/too real/dreamlike foun­da­tion from which to con­sid­er life/afterlife, grief, com­ic vio­lence, the wit of vengeance, fal­l­en­ness, redemp­tion, and the plea­sures avail­able to one mak­ing a life in fal­l­en­ness. (As a side note, Alexievich’s dis­cov­ery of report­ed mono­logues is a real achieve­ment in terms of the advance­ment of writ­ing. I’ve only read Voic­es from Cher­nobyl, but I rec­om­mend that every­one go out and get their hands on her work as quick­ly as they can.)


Char­lie Clark’s work has appeared in Pleiades, Smar­tish Pace, Three­pen­ny Review, West Branch, and oth­er jour­nals. He has stud­ied poet­ry at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land and the Bread Loaf Writ­ers’ Con­fer­ence. He lives in Austin, Texas.