George David Clark
New moon, two a.m., empty parking lot
of the Presbyterian Church: we lie
in the pickup's corrugated bed
and face out along the curve
of Earth's orbit where the August Perseids,
comet-dross and cosmic dust of lost
millennia, still fire in their wholesale dying
just as they did for the ancient Chinese
who recorded them in thirty-six anno domini
while first generation Christians,
beneath the cobalt dome of Judean nightsky
an Asia distant, watched also the stars
and their company as though answers
to prayers, or the Lord's timetables,
or at least a sign as to which way He leaned
were sketched there.
I read yesterday that Saint Lawrence,
for whom this week marks the anniversary
of a martyr's death beneath the Roman blood-sun,
and for whom these meteors
are at times called tears, as he was grilled
on an outdoor gridiron said famously,
I am already roasted on one side.
If thou would have me well cooked,
it is time to turn me on the other.
The scene breaks there of course,
the whole thing hearsay and half-apocryphal anyhow,
but who knows an attendant centurion
didn't order exactly that, a gesture of mercy
to usher the deacon out of this world
or, more likely, of grisly humor,
displaying for the crowd that crosshatch
of sear-marks on Lawrence's back.
Such a grid would scar itself
in the mind of anyone: finally a symbol easy
to believe in. And a witness might have later noticed
the shadows of the winter-bare poplars
thrown on the road to Milano
in a network of intersecting lines
and considered the fickle, collapsible distance
separating her life from others so foreign
in their loves and sufferings.
I guess she would have called that fate
and not tried, as I do, to put her fist
in the cavity of the night's lean side,
to feel the holes in the wind's pale hands,
but perhaps she did.
Even the woman lying here beside me
is a strange constellation of lonelinesses.
I know her only by poor light
come a great distance to reach me.
Much further the mind of God. And still,
the Perseids cut that unvoweled name
on the wood block of heaven
and the grooves in the truck bed
print fat red lines on our backs.
George David Clark's poems can be found reprinted elsewhere online at Verse Daily and Poetry Daily. He teaches creative writing and literature as a Lilly Fellow at Valparaiso University and is the editor of 32 Poems. "Asia Distant" first appeared in West Branch.