Author Archives: Chris Clarke

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Heart

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I have a new family member.

Her name is Heart, named partly because of a black Valentine’s-heart-shaped patch on her left side, and partly because of who she is.

When I first met her, in November, she couldn’t bring herself to make eye contact with me. A series of events I can only guess at had persuaded her that most people, men especially, could not be trusted. She came to live with me in December — a dogsitting-fostering arrangement, I insisted, not to be considered permanent — and it took her several days to stop flinching violently when I’d absently reach to stroke her head.

After a while, in which I spent a lot of time moving very slowly and deliberately, and treating her according to a very smart friend’s advice, we won each other over just a bit.

That advice:

after gaining her trust with walks and ignoring and humor and nothing ever being a big deal, then you expose her to absolutely freaking everything so the shy doesn’t wreck her quality of life.

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Now, she’s devoted to me, and I am in my inevitably inferior, non-dog way, to her. Here’s Heart waking me up on my 55th birthday earlier this month:

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We walk four miles a day on average, and she is slowly starting to learn that words mean things, and she is training me how to listen to her so that she can tell me what she wants, and she leaps onto the bed each morning and wakes me by punching me in the face repeatedly.

We made the decision this week to make our collegial relationship a permanent one. No one who knows me is the slightest bit surprised, excepting me.

Life is good.

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Decision

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I stood tonight at sundown at the south edge of the Mojave National Preserve after a day spent seeing one wonderful aspect of the Mojave after another and the thought came to me: “I live here.”

It’s not the first time I’ve had the thought, but it struck me hard tonight.

This late summer I made one of the hardest, most personably frightening decisions I’ve ever made. It felt correct at the time even when I feared its consequences most.

Had that decision gone the other way, I realized, I would have had to amend my thought to “I could have lived here.”

As painful as that decision was at the time, I have never been more convinced that I chose the proper path this past early September.

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Last night’s dream, still not completely shaken

It was bad news from the oncologist. Multiple myeloma, the same as killed my grandfather when he was just two years older than I am now, and I walked the street in a daze at the prognosis. Four months tops, he’d said, and that was after I cajoled him for optimism, talked about outliers and long right-hand tails of bell curves and essays by Stephen J. Gould.

Four months.

February.

She was waiting for me in the park, right where she’d said she’d be when we parted that morning. Behind her a brilliant blaze of California poppies in full orange bloom, a sky uninterrupted by clouds. She saw me, beamed. She looked so happy.

How would I tell her?

I reached her, sat next to her on the bench. I forced a smile. She looked so happy. Impossibly black eyes gleaming the way they always did. Melted me, the way they always did. How had I lived for so long without her? How could I possibly leave her alone in just four months?

Time to break her heart.

“I have some news,” I told her.

She took my hand in both of hers, shook it a little side to side in not-at-all contained joy. She radiated joy. She shone at me.

“So do I,” she said.

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Found while reading the Draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan

“Siting renewable energy only on private land would not provide balance or flexibility in siting renewable energy development because there is limited private land throughout the DRECP Planning Area and the private land does not always correlate with areas with the highest energy resource values. In some instances, development on private land would not align with existing transmission corridors. Meeting statewide and federal renewable energy goals within the DRECP planning area boundary exclusively on private lands would result in substantial conflicts with current and proposed land uses on private lands. Some counties expressed concern that development of renewable energy on private land could impact county land-use programs and controls, and could negatively affect local economies, county resources, local character, jobs, property tax revenue, agriculture, and recreation and historical resources (County of Riverside 2011a, DRECP 2011a). Private lands that were not incorporated into the analyzed alternatives have high biological resource conflicts and do not align with DRECP purpose and need. For these reasons, the Private and Previously Disturbed Lands Alternative was not retained.”

headdesk

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What she asked; what I did not say

thin dark hand on mine
nails tracing tendons
she looked up.
“Why do you like me?”

my heart a well,
dark bottom unseen.
sounds of tossed pebbles fade
long before they might surface.

now a swift red-tail hawk
stripes the bottomless blue sky.
her eyes scan each rock
shining brilliant dark brown.

I would stand with her
I would stand with her
I would stand with her
and fill this void with stones.

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Heartbreak and Ivanpah; Ivanpah and heartbreak

Sometimes, reflected glory burns too bright.
Sometimes, your feathery integument
ignites, and all that’s left: the earth approaching
stony swift. Decisions loom, and sad ones;
stay the course you set despite the certainty
of impact? Veer away from the bright light
that’s tempted you this far? There’s no real hope
of happy endings here. All that remains:
the strain of scorched, dis-feathered wing against
the unforgiving air, inevitable
contact with the earth, gorge-rising fear,
while those below you on the distant ground
see nothing but a bright, leisurely arc
and slow, and blinding white against the blue
and desert sky, almost ethereal
in your terminal agony; a wing
turned meteor, and all your nesting hopes
however long postponed, fall fluttering
as useless ash onto the desert stones.

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Poem with one vowel

Edge effects
Glee! The deep freeze recedes.
Even the bejeweled bees, ever kept penned,
Greet the respected beekeeper.
These stretched present vessels, these feeble knees, 
These leveled, dependent legs,
End the secret sense the experts set,
The present red-dressed regret.
Yes, pen the letters. Send them west, 
Let sweet green verses rest well there.
Let them needle-test the chest-nerves’ senses.