30/30 #10, Karen’s Pick

Today’s 30/30 comes from a poet I met in Chicago named Ben Clark.

Benjamin C. Clark spent his formative years in Nebraska, but nowresides in Chicago with his cat named Apple Juice. He has worked as alibrarian, track coach, organic food salesman, running shoe salesman,in a microwaveable popcorn factory, as a tile maker, and in the ChicagoPublic Schools as an English Teacher. He regularly attends the VoxFerus Writing Workshops, and will be in the MFA Creative Writingprogram at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago this fall.

At One-Hundred A Miracle Happens

Mother found you sobbing
in our plastic kids’ swimming
pool, almost buried in dead
toads, cradling all you
could, maybe thirty or forty
sun-scorched bodies.
The rest, that flopped
from your thin country
arms or that you couldn’t
pick up in the first place
(not enough hands,
too many hands),
piled against your
ankles, slipped under
your feet when you
finally tried to stand.

A week before, you called
them each by name, tamed
them with coos, croaks, and
whispers, wiped your arms
in the gift of their urine, was
asked into the family, fed
them, worshipped with them,
offered them a home.

While dad and I
dumped the bodies,
crumbling leaves,
into the incinerator,
and hosed down
the pool shivering
against the garage-
door you gasped
to mother I
didn’t mean to
let the sun get so
hot, I forgot
to move them to
the shade, I
only wanted to see
what happened
at one-hundred.

And it is true, while preaching addition
months before, I also taught you God.
When you asked, what happens
at one-hundred?
I held the answer
in my mouth like a miracle,
water now wine, made you wait
to taste it, whispered like the second-
coming, made you beg for it,
then at last described the sound,
the shape of ninety-nine
finding one-hundred.

And you,
only six,
began one,
two, three,
four. You
collected sticks
and stones, bottles
of every color and
shape, abandoned
sparrow nests, snake
skins, and rusty nails,
but nothing happened.
When you asked why
has nothing happened
, I said
you have to count the living
for the rapture to occur. And of course,
with you still spelling brother
b-e-l-i-e-v-e, you started searching for life.

We know now that you wandered
for weeks each mile between the farm
and town, that you nearly gave up at fifty,
but continued until you were well
into the nineties. When you found one-
hundred you could hardly hold him
your fingers falling angels. We know
you waited with them, for hours at a time,
hoping maybe the miracle would take
a day, or two, or a week more, as long as
you believed, but with time all boys stop
believing. The week before you found them
again, you forgot them entirely, left them
waiting for you, counting the minutes, the days,
the lifetimes until you returned.

One response to this post.

  1. I love this piece. I’m so glad you are writing again


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