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Tom Clark


Tom Clark was born and raised in Chicago and attended the universities of Michigan and Cambridge. From Britain in the 1960s he edited a series of mimeograph magazines featuring a generation of younger poets who would also appear in The Paris Review during his tenure there as poetry editor from 19631973. 

His poetry collections include: Junkets on a Sad Planet (Black Sparrow Books), Empire of Skin (Black Sparrow Books), When Things Get Tough on Easy Street (Black Sparrow Books), Paradise Resisted (Black Sparrow Books), Fractured Karma (Black Sparrow Books), Light & Shade: New & Selected Poems (Coffee House), The New World (Libellum), Something in the Air (Shearsman), Feeling for the Ground (Blazevox), At the Fair (Blazevox) and Canyonesque (Blazevox).

He has written books on sports and popular culture, as well as a number of literary biographies: Damon Runyon, Ted Berrigan, Jack Kerouac, Robert Creeley, Charles Olson and Edward Dorn. He has written fiction and literary reviews for many newspapers and journals, including The New York Times, Times Literary Supplement, Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle, for which he served as poetry critic. He has taught literature at a number of colleges and universities, and has been a member of the Core Faculty in Poetics at New College of California.

He also has a poetry blog, Beyond the Pale.

Persistence of Memory

I think he's saying it's quite easily caught.
I'm not hearing as well as once I was.
Did he say the yen is advancing against
The flower? What flower? A yen for what
Was that again? Starting to forget things
Changes one's mind. The not remembering
Is not so bad, it's the resurgences of not
Forgetting that ruin everything. Yesterday's
Papers landing at the door with a soft
Lamenting thud, though one had not subscribed,
The shouting silence of the midnight hour,
The soft footfalls of the ocelot through the house.



Hello, where are you, and who?
Will we find bliss together?
Will we reach out in the night and touch hands across the inky gulf of eternity?
Or will it merely be tangled wires and short circuits?
A configuration of transmission cables and silicon chips?
A string of zeros and ones comprising a locale? A line of text simulating a human being?

Will the wisp of hair that clings to your temple and which you brush away distractedly with one hand
While you gaze into the lighted box before you, become a silent chord in the song we make together?
Will your mountains and islands and deserts be forever hidden in endless clouds and fogs?
Will the clarity of retouched screen-saver bliss never envelop us?
Will we dwell forever in the sock puppet artifice of identities we believe we have chosen in order to make contact?
Will the sleeping husband in the next room rise and walk across the universe to speak to the sleeping wife?

Will the lover of a thousand dreams find a voice on another continent?
Will the isolated universes of our separate beings remain on parallel tracks to infinity?
Will we die before we have learned each other's real names?
Are our names so important after all?
Is there a "you" that is more than an assemblage of reconfigurable selves bundled together by accident?
An offscreen individual who is not simply a phantom or a ghost?

Will our dreams propel us into a future
We have before now only projected or vaguely imagined but never thought we'd actually see
In which the limitations of gravity which once pinned our bodies to the earth
Are left behind like vessels in a suddenly landlocked harbour
And the knowledge of certain death which heretofore obsessed us
Is forgotten in the flowing forward motion of a new and not yet explicable Spirit of Ecstasy?

Hello my friend I'm just one more window in you
Wherever you are
Whatever you are
Said the one billionth self as always infinitely fluid
To the no one
In the flickering lights in the modem

In the ethernet where you are what you pretend to be
It's surface surface everywhere
And no one is there
But you 
And you
And you



One may age ten years in ten minutes.
It's too quiet. I can hear the crickets,
It's like a music of the spheres in reverse,
A whack recursiveness of thinking,
Or is it just the night-clicking computer god
And what kind of iterative god is that?

Pascal had his pit, which went with him
Where'er he went, like a faithful dog,
Nor was he out of it. Infinity I can see
From here. It looks empty, unrelenting,
Cold. There is no respite from Being
And Number, a poet once told us that

When it was getting late for him
And night panic passed through his hair
Making it stand on end, the little he still
Had of it. I'll go to the wall, stand with it,
Let it be my friend, just to have something
That won't fall down. I feel giddy, said the clown.

I believe in a world. Is God or death more great?
This world is my world and will vanish with me
But while I click it goes on existing 
In eternity -- to 2046 or
2666, or whene'er the chips melt down.
I've lost Memory writing this.

I've aged ridiculously in ten minutes,
Maybe ten years. Distance is closing in,
It's too quiet. I can hear the crickets
Singing God and death out of existence.
More power to them. Click. 
The intricate circuits of a summer night.



To one about to leave it, how beautiful and large
And familiar -- as the old saying goes
Almost like home. And yet, the almost sticks
In one's throat, just as one was leaving,
Why was it never better or more? What was
The real thing one expected? Always somewhere
Else and never here? And where do those
Winding roads go, and what's around the next bend
And can this really be the end?

Never thought to skywalk, had doubts
That got in the way of transcending self
With its dumb momentary occupations,
Timidly and confusedly entered caves
To find the firelight on the wall dimly signifying,
Felt awkward with the ins and outs of thought,
Cheered inwardly oft for little reason,
Was shy of others, never to draw near
Yet longed for some company to be found
Down the line, can't recall now where, in the end
Hoped only one day to find feet planted firmly
On this ground, wanted only to be here.






copyright Tom Clark