Speak to me never again about collarbones.
Tell me no tales of breakage and hurts.
Should you dream of asking me about childhood
And injuries, let’s use the correct term: clavicle.
Three times, Alice, three times mine was
Cracked. Today they’d have the parents seen
By a social worker. What kind of abuse goes on
In your household? I remember everything: a red
Couch, a pup on a leash, a fall. There’s no setting
A collarbone. There was a rough-textured piece
Of fabric with a little stretch in it, and a way
To shape it around the shoulder to hold up
The arm. Large silver safety pins to fasten it.
That’s the best we can do. How about a lollipop?
My tall father was the first-aid officer for Atlas
Foundry. See how he holds up the world?
I sat on a dining room chair while rowdy girls
Resembling my sisters ran around the table,
Spilling me onto the ground. Back to the ER
At Tacoma General. Lie down with the arm
In a sling, try to get back up. The bone ends
Scraped together, a remembered pain, sharp
As a tooth. Words to bury and not to voice:
Fall, fracture, clavicle, sling. Also safety
Pins because there is no safety. Ask
Atlas, ask my kind father gone some 28 years.
I Go Back to Stadium High
to be Kicked Out of a Dance Again
It wasn’t the boy, though there he stood, blonde,
last name forgotten, face nearly forgotten too,
but the green army fatigue jacket he wore
sticks with me, and a certain look of his,
a shyness like a flower not boldly facing up,
more like a downturned Lenten rose. And there was
the floor, planked and polished for games,
so no one could wear shoes, adding a touch
of play for the night, as though putting on pajamas
would come next. It wasn’t that he crossed
the floor and asked me to dance though that
was a thrill—the formal ask, the taking me
by the hand, leading out onto the dance floor, to face
each other and to step close, into an embrace,
a necessary closeness and warmth. It wasn’t
that I could feel his body, his shoulders and chest,
his warm neck. It was the reaction of blood,
a bubbling up, a froth of champagne in my veins,
never having tasted such a drink, a thrill
at seventeen years old, thinking how good
it could be, what awaited us, though now
the chaperone neared and told us to part,
leave room we were told, keep a distance
of three or four inches. But how could we?
There was a charge, an attraction of opposites,
female and male, there we were, the music
lulling us with its rhythm and soon we were back
touching, once again scolded, once again told
by tall Mr. Muse, the third warning will be
your last. He was our dapper Biology teacher,
a handsome Sidney Poitier saying
“Leave some room,” and we listened but
could not obey. Others joined us on the floor
before Mr. Muse pointed to the exit, saying “Go!”
The boy and I didn’t speak or touch, no music
filled the scene, two of us sent out into the sea salt
air of Tacoma, Commencement Bay glittering
down below our school, out from the dance floor,
out with smokers, laggards, cars huddled
together where couples bolder than we were
necked on backseats, steaming the windows,
out where we waited for our fathers
to pick us up, carrying us back to childhood.
Patricia Clark is the author of Self-Portrait with a Million Dollars, her sixth book of poems, and three chapbooks. She recently retired from thirty years of teaching in the Writing Department at Grand Valley State University in Michigan where she was also the university's poet in residence. She has new work forthcoming in Plume, The Southern Review, North American Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Cimarron Review, and elsewhere. Her poem “Astronomy: ‘In Perfect Silence’” was chosen to go to the moon in November 2024 as part of the Lunar Codex.
on Greg McBride