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Jeremy Michael Clark

Jeremy Michael Clark’s first collection, The Trouble with Light, is forthcoming from Ledge Mule Press in 2021. A graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice, he is from Louisville, Kentucky, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

By This Poet

1

One Fire, Quenched with Another

             1.
Pained as he was when he gazed 
upon his father’s face, he held his gaze.

             2.
Toward what he’d never known, he walked,
somehow both arrogant & begging.

The purple of his father’s robes, like a bruise. 

             3.
As a river, over time, can forge
a way through stone, so
absence bore through him,
leaving a valley where his voice
echoes off the canyon walls. 

             4.
His mind had narrowed until all it held
was an idea of father, until so fixed on the idea
his mind seemed under siege. Inside him hummed
a longing, one he felt compelled to fix, so named it ​flaw.

             5.
What the boy wanted:
to finally know his father’s face.
Evidence, at last, of his origin. 

             6.
Felt within, a longing.
Felt and therefore knew
a weakness he wanted to master. 

             7.
A desire to know, and a belief
he deserved to,

these were the human parts of him.

             8. 
Fiery, Dawnsteed, Scorcher, Blaze–

the horses the father owned,

the horses the father, knowing he would fail, let his son steer–

             9.
is this devotion?

             10.
To master, control, rein in;
hoping this might prove him 
a man, perhaps, a god.

             11.
There are gaps knowing cannot fill.

             12.
What boy has not dreamt himself a noble son,
has not prematurely thought himself a man?

             13.
                           He lost control of the reins
& the horses did what one expects
from animals whose lives had always been 
tightly squeezed between two fists:

             14.
breaking from the path they’d always known,

             15.
they galloped nearer to that world from which they’d been kept, 

             16.
not out of malice but a kind of mercy

             17.
for the world the father feared the horses would destroy.

             18.
Finding himself at the mercy of what he’d sought–

             19.
gone too far to turn back, gone far beyond his father now
with further still to go, ignorant of the names
of the horses behind whom he was now dragged like the tail
of a comet hurtling toward earth, as in all directions
he sees the destruction he’d caused:

the flames licking trees at their roots, licking
dry the ocean’s mouth, licking the faces
of each living thing until they’d turned to ash,

until the world without grew hotter than the world within,
until a dizzying heat rose from the soil, until in his feet

             20.
the boy could feel the world ablaze–

             21.
free me from these reins
he cried perhaps to god, 
perhaps to father, 

             22.
the difference indecipherable, more or less insignificant

             23.
for even though he’d met him, the boy still knew himself

             24.
fatherless, godless, no less abandoned than he’d been.

             25.
The world to which, for better or worse, he once belonged, now gone, 

             26.
he belonged nowhere… 

             27.
To save what could be saved, to salvage what had not been lost,
to punish his failure to master what no other ever had: the boy

             28.
was struck dead & buried

             29.
beside a river, which began again to flow toward the distant mouth 

             30.
out of which, it would finally empty.