Today's poem is by Kevin Cark


Book to chest, lost in the rogue, silk-white threads of hair, the scented labyrinth,
he sits peering, swimming
in her body, shaken in the kind of sultry late afternoon air that had never meant
a thing, not even when he'd forsworn heaven

for the plain secrets of water and sky, when he'd woven himself
into the present moment,
ordinary air inciting all the nerve cells of his lungs like some self-made communion.
This is a dream, he tells himself.
Another layer,

he tells himself. But in today's light, right now, when she looks up from her novel,
it's her face as she speaks, it's her presence,
a painless, cool rip
on his skin, a light menthol wind like the onshore breeze last summer
into which he stared, as now,

over the glassy bay. She'd come down
the cliff stairs, said something funny, intimate, then dropped her book
and towel, approached
the faint surf. In those moments before she broke the sheen of soft water
and stroked

a hundred yards into the shifting, buoyant room of her swim, he fell quiet,
and watched her
in her tight suit standing still, all her loveliness curved taut
before him like a mystery
he should see through. There's nothing more than matter, he reminds and reminds,

just material, he reminds, intoning those m-words
like a logician's mantra. But
her form was the other world his body takes to, the maze he can't navigate
from. He'd been caught then
as he is now, again. And so he's split between the unadorned fact

of merely naked matter in which he stands as flesh and bone alone—
and another realm
in which his own body is a radiance, her presence an aperture into a dream
of clues
as recognizable as the coffee table, but ultimately just as mute, proof of something

else. He knows the drill, the tricks, the sleights of hand, how the balmy face
of the world offers itself up to him
like a prayer book in code,
the seductions that find their way into his waking dreams until he's entered
a candlelit cavern

in which O Magnum Mysrterium rings out from the subatomic interstices
of an unseeable world. His eyes purse as if he's hurt, as if
he's become lost
in the dim currents of—not resignation—but this originary tidal pull toward her...
Even as he sits so still, the sunset

filtered through high clouds and on into the living room, he's swept out into her
while she speaks. Soon enough
she's laughing about the novel,
saying in that sub-rosa voice, it's as if the facts undermine themselves like years
of tap water

carving the runnel in the kitchen sink. He thinks back to the day at bayside:
How she stood so composed
against the swelling water. Her figure rose in his chest. She'd turned
once to meet his gaze, her legs and back
and—just as now—her face

all a testament
to what has become of him, of his mania for tearing away the promising scrim
so the waves and moon would fall like gods,
so he could believe utterly
in himself alone, not this face across a room, this voice purling in the air like faith.

Copyright © 2010 Kevin Clark All rights reserved
from Self-Portrait with Expletives
Pleiades Press
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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