Patricia Clark


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.

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