From the archives – My Valparaiso by Clark Holtzman

My Valparaiso
Or, The Fish
. . . . . . . .—for Carlos, Camila, Claudia & Ryan at the Neruda house, Valparaiso, Chile

This Pacific could not be bluer
if we waved a wand, or
this snail’s shell more green
or more certain of its greenness.
This stair could not labor so sensibly
up the hill of the poet’s dream
or these windows carry us
farther to paradise.

A minute here passes
like the cargo ships on the bay,
eternally, at ease, like the cat
licking itself in strong sunlight
on the funky garden bench.
I am caught by it, a fish in time,
surprised by the hook, the sharp,
startling wound of happiness.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, February 10, 2017 — by Clark Holtzman.

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

By the Time I Came Upon Him by Clark Holtzman

By the Time I Came Upon Him

By the time I came upon him, it was late in the day,
he was pounding water near the rock-walled well,
standing over the bucket of water so black in that December light,
so like a mirror, one hand gripping its rim, the other a fist,
a hard pink fist raised over the back bent to the thing
he was so earnestly about. The fist came down and down
onto the face of the water which seemed to accept it,
the pummeling, as water accepts all things—
the diving sea-hawk, the sea wreck, the suicide,
the fly-cast, the glacial calve, the tea bag, the muzzle in thirst,
the test finger, the leaf released, Narcissus’ gaze . . .

The woods I had come from stood leafless.
The going had been slow, the way tangled, the light weak.
The clearing held in diorama the rock-walled well,
the man at his business and the bucket of water.
The slash of sky it framed was low and gray and swollen.
I did not stop to ask directions.

by Clark Holtzman

Editor’s Note: The narrative in this poem is strange and confusing. It raises the question, “why is he doing this thing?” But neither the reader nor the narrator has the courage to ask.

My Valparaiso by Clark Holtzman

My Valparaiso
Or, The Fish
. . . . . . . .—for Carlos, Camila, Claudia & Ryan at the Neruda house, Valparaiso, Chile

This Pacific could not be bluer
if we waved a wand, or
this snail’s shell more green
or more certain of its greenness.
This stair could not labor so sensibly
up the hill of the poet’s dream
or these windows carry us
farther to paradise.

A minute here passes
like the cargo ships on the bay,
eternally, at ease, like the cat
licking itself in strong sunlight
on the funky garden bench.
I am caught by it, a fish in time,
surprised by the hook, the sharp,
startling wound of happiness.

by Clark Holtzman

Editor’s Note: This poem calls to mind the intense imagery of Jack Gilbert’s work—emotion is a tricky narrative to tread, but the close of this poem steps carefully and well.