Patricia Clark

Two Poems
May 16, 2024 Clark Patricia

What My Father Wished For


I could never say anything about my father
except he was quiet, and next to Mother
he receded like a hermit crab into its shell.
Is that an excuse, at seventeen, for raising
my voice against him, trying my best
to goad him to anger? “How can you just go
to work, drive downtown, day after day,
arriving on time, leaving at five? Don’t you
ever start asking yourself what it all means?”
Someone should have slapped me. I see
the kitchen at Browns Point, a round table where
we sat, high cliff light over the bay,
smoky stink of pulp mills, a madrona tree
by the deck sickened by sewage. He’s about
to drive me to Stadium High, down Snake Hill,
across Tacoma’s tide flats, drawbridges opening
and closing like jaws for tankers heading
out west to Japan, stacked high with lumber
or salt, later, jeeps and tanks for Vietnam.
And then I badgered him, too: “Why can’t you
take a stand against the war?” This, hurled
at my father who’d enlisted after Pearl Harbor
with his favorite brother, a brother who didn’t
come home from Germany. Did someone
call regret “permanent remorse”? After my father’s
diagnosis, he refused to talk about death. “I’ve had
everything in life I could have wanted.” When the priest
came to the house, Dad sat up in bed, talking
as though he’d be around weeks, as the sunset
turned salmon, then mauve over
Commencement Bay. Later, he leaned in, close
to me, to say, “One thing, though, I wish
I’d had a sister.” He told me this, sotto voce,
when I sat alone beside him, holding his hand
through the metal rails.



Love Poem to a Red Fox


To your black-stockinged feet as you trot west.
To your bushy tail streaming behind you like a flame.
To whatever brings you near, plentiful squirrels and voles hiding
in leaf-litter. Woe unto them!
To your long muzzle, whiskers, white tip on your tail.
To the insouciant way you walk along a fallen tree, balancing,
then jumping down.
To the way you bring me out of myself into your wild
alertness, ears perked.
To the thick healthy fur keeping you warm.
To your hurrying by, as though late for a meeting,
on a mission I cannot know.
To the musky scent you leave as you pass, one to drive
the neighborhood dogs wild, they set to howling.
To your scat with a tapered tail with embedded bits of mouse,
rabbit, berries or insects, bird feathers too.
To the demarcation you establish, the wild vs. the tame,
the ordinary, and mundane:  no wonder you intrigue me.
To your feet and a ridge of callus on the interdigital pad, says the field guide.
To your den I’ll never find, fallen log, den you’ve dug out
with an entrance marked by small bones. How many feasts?
To your habitat and range, to your trotting stride and trotting gait,
thirty-two inches or more.
To whatever fills you, also to your dreams, do you twitch
and shake, feet running in dreams like our dog? I see you
in moonlight, glimmer-light.
To the chance of you, risk of you, joy of you red against the snow.

Patricia Clark is the author of six volumes of poetry, including Sunday Rising, The Canopy and most recently Self Portrait with a Million Dollars. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, Gettysburg Review, Poetry, Plume, and Slate, among others. She received the 2018 Book of the Year Award from Poetry Society of Virginia for The Canopy. Her new book, her seventh, O Lucky Day is forthcoming in January 2025 from Madville Publishing.