george clark across the united states
BY LAUREN CLARK
George Clark is the smallest person on Earth, living
in a hole with all his possessions. Five brightly painted
tankards, all purchased on the Kansas side of Kansas City.
A miniature wooden trolley. An armadillo of clay.
His third most prized collection: wine corks
by the thousands, each purpled on one end,
held in a copper tub big enough to bathe in.
Smoke drifts up from the hole, although George Clark
does not smoke. It’s simple: wherever he is, it gets colder,
then he breathes. He keeps his second most prized collection
high on a shelf: hot sauces from across the country, carefully arranged
in a red and green phalanx. Liquefied habanero. Devil Drops.
The one that had a naked woman posing with a whip which somehow
always came back to the front no matter how far back you hid it.
George Clark cannot move. He calls me exactly one month
after my birthday and says Happy Birthday and I
can hear his head bouncing off the sides of the hole.
The men at the drive-thru window at the liquor store down the street
know George Clark by face, by name, in secret. They throw a few
lollipops in with the vodka when they see me in the passenger seat.
Once he threw me down the stairs.
Once he hit my sister so hard she slid down the wall
from the top bunk. I watched from the bottom.
George Clark’s favorite food is barbeque sauce.
His favorite city is San Francisco. His favorite color
is blue. He keeps them lined up in a lit cabinet with
all the antique toys he inherited from his mother.
She also lived in a hole. And her mother too.
Once he tried to run my mother over with his car
in her own driveway. She never told anyone about it
—the police never believed—but I saw it happen.
I was there. His most prized collection: a slender
bracelet gold on his gray wrist, the white hide
of a little dog, some woman’s tan slip-ons
tossed aside, carelessly, at the earthen bottom of his hole.
One night he drove himself to the highest point
east of the Mississippi in his old burgundy sedan.
When he got there he looked out over his land
and whispered to it and put his face in it. There,
George Clark is the governor.
George Clark is the king.
I have built villages around his absence.
Lauren Clark's first collection of poems, Music for a Wedding, was selected by Vijay Seshadri for the 2016 AWP Donald Hall Prize in Poetry. It will be published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 2017. They work as Program & Development Coordinator at Poets House in New York City and Collaborate with Etc. Gallery in Chicago.
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