M. Pavan Clark

Questions (Burning) for an Infidel

Remember, careless lover—it was not
that long ago—when you asked

if I’d ever cheated? Never,
I replied, to your surprise. Well,

I lied. In fact, I slipped Gena
the answer to a question

on a third-grade geography quiz:
covered wagons. We were caught

and punished with failure. Then
in ninth grade, in Mississippi

history, I let Greg and P.C.
copy my test in exchange for a joint

they never delivered,
which is why I never got stoned,

ever, in high school. I was smart,
but not that smart: I couldn’t make

them honor their end
of the contract. Good thing, too.

I’d planned to smoke all
alone, in the hour between school’s finish

and my parents’ return home—time
enough, I gauged, to get high

and come down. My folks would never know.
And in college, in behavioral psych,

when my lab rat—white, red-eyed,
water-deprived—would not perform

in the theatre that was Skinner’s box,
would not press the lever for a drink,

I invented statistics to fit the expected
response and left the rat to her thirst,

unquenched. I’m sorry. I didn’t intend
to lie. The fact is Yes, I’ve cheated—

 and, like you, more than once. Now tell
me, please, someday: When you lie

awake in the bed you made,
does your wife shut her eyes

and hope for the blindness
that is sleep, only to drift

to dreams troubled by truth?
And when you try to close

the space that separates
your bodies, how

much of me still comes
between you?


The Long, Slow Days of Now

These urgent hours
that drag each day
may pass, may lapse
into the habits of distance,
an easy inability to imagine
the pieces of your day,
the space you occupy,
your sweater as it slips
from your shoulder, the length
of your bangs, the precise
pearl green of your eyes
and their gleam, the work
of your sure hands as you sip
tea, write, draw a train
passing through mountains
on which rain falls and sun
shines, the curve of your wrists
I brushed my cheekbones
against and kissed.

But like yesterday and each
of the fifty-seven days before, every
waking hour of today will bring
a strenuous effort to remember you,
us, what we did and said,
your body beneath blue lights
and my hands and my mouth,
utterances I won’t yet call sweet
nothings, our walk with shooting star
(did we think to wish?), and how
you stood, one foot resting on the other,
at the stove and stirred
potatoes and onions in a skillet
on my birthday and complained
you never make them as well
as your grandmother does while I halved
oranges then moved to the table
to squeeze their juice. Today I can still
measure the lengthening distance between
calls and correspondence. I can measure
this silence in days and call that quiet
loud. I cannot know at what point
the hours will resume
their faster pace and blur,
or how long until I let go
the question: Is this day during
or after the affair?

© M. Pavan Clark

A native of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, M. Pavan Clark is a queer writer whose work has appeared in Apalachee Review, Cream City Review, Ontario Review, Sinister Wisdom, and Impossible Archetype, among others. Her creative nonfiction was recognized among the “Notable Essays” in Best American Essays 2011. She makes her home in the American Southwest. Her name rhymes with raven.

 Back to Main Loch Raven Review Site