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.