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Philip F. Clark reads from The Carnival of Affection

Once I was very sick with pneumonia, had the temperature of 105 for several days, and my brain was as burnt as eggs fried in a pan, but as I lay there in a rank sweaty fever expecting death what I felt most was gratitude; I was thankful that I’d lived. That’s the feeling I get reading Philip F. Clark’s new book, The Carnival of Affection, whose poems are blessings of thanks:

What else could one do but give thanks? You laughed,
and I turned to you, at some joke we shared and I saw
winter ease its hand, filling you with a grace
of something close to the sun you were dressed in.

This thanks is very real; Philip F. Clark recently retired from his day job at the New York City Law Department after 14 years, to continue teaching English at City College and writing a book where every poem is infused with doing what you love; this gives each poem the freedom to be familiar, but never commonplace bearing witness to the human condition that after suffering comes a state of grace.

I love holding The Carnival of Affection in my hands because its color is my favorite. Call it terra cotta if you want or call it rust. If the book were a shirt, I’d wear it. It’s the color of the sun and the solid earth beneath. The two men on the cover, young and long since dead, Are they in love? What’s under the blanket they are sharing? What is that one saying?

We have all looked for love in the wrong places. The Carnival of Affection is about the wrong places becoming the right ones because suddenly there is the understanding of forgiving the trick who left you in the morning or the bum who haunted you on the corner or your father who wanted you to hit him back; the poems I include after the Vimeo will give the reader an appreciative awareness of that.

The Carnival of Affection is published by Sibling Rivalry Press. You can check them out here: http://siblingrivalrypress.com/


He stopped and asked if I could spare some change.
I thought, Oh yes, I could spare so much: another job,
a new home, other clothes, better weather, more chances,
less pain. Yes, I could spare some change.
He held out his hand—callused, sooted, cracked.
I groped for my wallet, and I held his eyes:
still young, if half alive; as if they and his body were not
the same—there were the chances he mistook,
the changes on a dime—the house, the car, the wife
or lover, the constantly put off grave.
All I had was a clean last twenty.
Without a thought, I handed it to him.
As he gently took it, his hand in mine, I knew:
It’s all we ever want—the holding. The asking
is never as hard as the needing, the accepting
never as hard as the taking.


What a December—with its hot surprise!
The stretch of beach alive with a fat sun, like an eye,
as we strolled, dogs running to the water’s edge—
feeling that same strange change of time.

The dune grasses green as we stretched there,
and the water shone like white glass bones.
Trees spotted with deep red berries gleamed
as we, astonished, strode by their electric kingdoms.

Brine-crackled birds rushed over the moorings;
the air was filled with the hope of the
hesitant, not sure of its sudden new heat.
We sat, watched and simply lifted our faces.

What else could one do but give thanks? You laughed,
and I turned to you, at some joke we shared and I saw
winter ease its hand, filling you with a grace
of something close to the sun you were dressed in.


Invent my body with me; surely we have time
to render flesh and bone.
Be my Adam for a while.
Place my smile, awkward; place my eyes, hopeful;
help my mouth learn its place to kiss.
Embrace this arm, empty, and its brother,
empty too. Stitch a new heart inside.
Touch where Thomas doubted.
Wind these legs around you; they are air,
and I cannot steal away.
What we fear is only love; what we make
of it is here: invent with me
my body, love, render me a kiss of bone.
Abrade my flesh with wonder.

You enter me with spotless grammar.
What I love the most is the instant just before I touch
Before flesh feels what the eye has longed for.


The boy was making something.
They were at the beach near the edge of the water,
The father reached for his son’s hand;
the man’s fingers curling—calloused and loamed
with work as they curved toward his son.
Crowds walked along the dune.
The sun glinted in the boy’s eyes.
As he held his hand, the father looked down
at what the boy had made: some fingered
rune, incising the sand with a secret.
The boy smiled up at him, “You don’t know
what it says,” and he reached for him,
in a language the father would know
and the water not wash away.

Philip F. Clark

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