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.
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.