Friday, June 17, 2016
Special Feature: A Pair of Poems by Johnny Clarke
Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “A Father & a Son” and “We Are Falling” by Johnny Clarke. Mr. Clarke was institutionalized and diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic in 2013. He is currently pursuing an MFA in poetry at Fairfield University.
A Father & a Son
my father carries me to the cliffs.
His arms are like two white ropes
that ships use to moor.
He holds me against his chest,
his blood beats back the cold.
The sting of his breath shrouds me
in the smell of Irish whiskey.
My father stands above the sea,
the wind pounds into us like waves
& the wings of blackened clouds
extinguish all the stars.
He too is erased.
I am standing on the cliffs alone
listening to the water,
the sound of lonely rock.
Poet’s Notes: This poem is about my relationship with my father. It is about becoming a man in his absence.
Editor’s Note: Clarke captures a haunting moment here. I find the sudden change in imagery in the final stanza from the father holding the son to the son standing alone to be a nice surprise. I also like the way that the poem hints at a tragic back-story, and how it makes me want to know more about that back-story.
* * * * *
We Are Falling
We are falling like the last leaf of autumn onto dark soil -
with our wedding rings hanging
as heavy as headstones on our
We are falling into darkness, into a permanent midnight of silence -
as we sit together at the dinner table,
sharing a meal
but not exchanging a word.
We are falling across long years (years of liquor, winter & suspicion) -
& by sleeping in separate beds
we often do not sleep at all.
We are falling.
We are falling like drops of blood out of a time-gashed palm -
while our bodies age like dying trees
& it becomes a chore to say good morning,
& impossible to say what’s wrong?
Poet's Notes: A poem inspired by my parents' relationship. As my father's alcoholism worsened, distance grew between my mother and father. I borrowed from their situation and added from my own experience with lovers and grief.
Editor’s Note: Clarke uses refrain well here, especially since "falling" and "failing" differ by only a single letter. His metaphors are well done, enhancing the crisp imagery. Sadly, I am sure that the universal theme will resonate with many readers.