Poetry by Jeremy Michael Clark

"Untitled" by Janie Stamm / janiestamm.com



Whole Life

You drove hearses most your life, yet before you died
     you said you’d never seen a corpse. ​Wasn't my job
          to look, ​was how you left it, as you absently unraveled

               the seams on your chair. You never felt a need
to explain how your typical breakfast came to be
          half a pack of Kools & a cold glass of water,

                                             or how you found yourself

               in that line of work. I suspected you the sort of man
     who tolerated the dead more than the living, judging
          by the way you kept all our conversations short: a quick

               wave of your hand meant our time was coming
     to an end. Some weekends now, I post up near the far end
          of my favorite bar, within earshot of the older guys

               who regale each other with war stories. No two tellings
     are ever the same, but rather than privilege the facts
          over the feelings, I nod, & when they go quiet

               I see you, silently driving that hearse,
     the manicured body of someone else's loved one
          only a few feet behind your head, like a thought on the tip

               of your tongue, like a word you’d never again recall.




          “the technical impossibilities of return don’t make return impossible, 
          except in the ways that there isn’t there anymore”
                                                                                                              —Fred Moten

at best a word
                                                            a want

I can barely mouth.
                                                            to go back—

how false it feels:
                                                            to firmly grip

those dangling threads,
                                                            & wrap myself in

                              what I never had.




Unauthorized Autobiography

                                                            a cento

                    Down in the valley,
          the illest villains
               hotwire my heart.
                    They say I’m different,
          super stupid,
                       everything in between
             the bad & the beautiful,
          the black saint & the sinner lady.
                          Ain’t no tellin’
                    everything I am.
                   Time has told me
          misery is a butterfly,
                          dirty blue gene,
                             common heat.
          Bootsy, what’s the name of this town?
     Expressway to your skull.
               Republic of rough & ready.
                          Call me
               slum beautiful,
                                            two-headed boy,
                    one chapter in the book
Everybody Knows This is Nowhere​.
          Have you ever been
                          between two worlds,
               looking for astronauts?
                  Someone’s always singing
               softly, as in a morning sunrise.
                          How strange, innocence,
     grinning in your face.
                                    I need a forest fire,
               blue & sentimental,
                          born of a broken man.
               Calling all demons:
             choose your weapon.
     Dance, or die.


Jeremy Michael Clark’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Callaloo, Foundry, The Offing, Poetry Northwest, Scalawag, Vinyl, West Branch, wildness, and elsewhere. His work has also been anthologized in Soul Sister Revue: A Poetry Compilation. He has an MFA from Rutgers University-Newark, and he was awarded the Otto and Gertrude Pollak Scholarship from The University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice, where he is currently pursuing a Master of Social Work. He is from Louisville, Kentucky.