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copyright B F Clark 1992-2001. All rights reserved



Borrowed Time

THEY are going
to borrow another hour
this spring.
You'd think that everyone's hours
could be invested
through the summer.
Come fall
we'd get them back,
plus interest.
10 min. coupons, say.

I'd cash mine in
at The Big Check-Out,
so instead of life flashing
before my eyes,
I could take the good parts
nice and slow.


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Hilda Marshall-Johnson

youthful lioness
elegant and poised,
graced us with her presence
one ordinary day,
June 75

She moved about the office
with surety of step,
put pen to paper
with unnerving certainty.
She knew her stuff.

At 17 I was
in awe of this woman.
I wanted to know what she knew.
wanted her to show me.
this computer systems analyst
to unlock the mystery.
She took me
Spoke of interfaces;
input and output
would satisfy her need;
fulfill the desire to move towards
a paperless future.

in twenty years
I have not recalled your name,
yet today, as I spoke
of a paperless system design,
your feline form leapt
through my mind
and once again I heard
you whisper,
"Just think how wonderful it would be"



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You'd think by now

You'd think by now,
Now that we've seen
The evidence of gas-ovened jews
Bodies piled high, teeth and shoes;

You'd think by now
Now we know how slaves were whipped
and locked in stinking holds of ships;

You'd think by now
Now we see skeleton baby refugees
Covered in flies; riddled with disease;

You'd think by now
Now people beg on America's streets
To keep hunger from the door;

You'd think by now
Now that health coverage
Isn't only alien to the poor;

You'd think by now,
Now that we count, each year,
The days the smog's too bad,
And are proud when it's less than five;

You'd think by now,
Now that toxic clouds come floating by
At Random
And we shouldn't go outside;

You'd think by now,
Now that we can count the breeding pairs
Of a species on one hand
And even they are in a cage;

You'd think by now,
Now that oil has gushed from hulls
To choke the sea;

You'd think by now,
Now once abundant feeding grounds
Over-fished need ten more years to heal;

You'd think by now,
Now cancer rates coincide
With nuclear leaks and pesticide;

You'd think by now
Now whale song is a sad lament,
A cry to cease;

You'd think by now
Above all other
We'd think by now
And learn to respect and love
Each other,
and Mother Earth


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Greater Burden

I, a small black briefcase,
he, a shopping cart
laden with tattered plastic bags
piled high or knotted and
hanging from the sides.
Dirty blankets poking out,
and some piece of cloth
found abandoned under
a ground-hugging cypress
in Golden Gate Park.

The wheels on those carts
never move in unison.
Now they conspire
not to move at all.

Leaning his weight away,
pulling on a frayed rope,
they finally give
and he drags his world
behind, making slow progress
through the drizzle of the day.

In my black case,
a month's worth of unpaid bills
and a pension plan.


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Barely a Kiss

Our timeless wonder.


Feel the stillness of the rocks,

Only we and time shall pass and
perhaps the air.

Turn your head to catch the breeze with
your ear.

Hear that muffled sound of wind against the drum?


Dormant now she lies,
mother of the rocks and ash.
Yet still her passion seethes within,

So close.
Eye to eye,
breath to breath.
A velvet caress of
parted lips.

Deep lava stirs within.

A whisp of smoke rises above the crater's rim.

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As a wide-eyed kid,
I loved artists'
impressions of
future city-scapes.
sky-scrapers under
a blue wash.
Litterless streets;
red sidewalks;
geometric gardens;
road markings:


Quick-sketch pedestrians
caught in a frozen rush
under canopies
of fresh-leaf saplings
or emerging
on some escalator
from the underground
detailed in the cut-away
on the opposite page.

looking down
from thirty-three floors
onto Market,
the scene moves
And a wide-eyed kid,
reading a book in Staceys,
sees an artist's impression of
a colony on Mars.

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Carpe Diem

We've all done the wondering trick,
"What's it all for?"
Yet, despite the pain,
we never learn
it's all for nothing and
nothing for all -
in the long run, that is.
In about eight billion years.

In the long run,
no-one is more important than you -
no instant more valuable than now.

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After the Xray

There's a rock in my belly
as I climb the Rincon Hill.
It's grey outside.
Grey inside.
Reluctant footsteps carry me on
to the work day.
The radiologist told me,
"Drink plenty of water".
I didn't.
Now it's hard
for anything to move
through the distended bowel.
Not even a thought.

The alluring walk of a Fillipino woman
Pulls me toward
the bar-graph skyline
where the good years scrape
against the clouds.
A memory of misted mountains;
slate-grey and white-capped
under leaden skies.
A raven soars over
prayer flags fluttering;
above the steep, winding trail
to the monastery,
and I don't thing I can
make it at that altitude.

walking is hard enough at sea-level.
All I want
Is to push out the white plaster
snake in my gut
and get on with life.

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3 am.
Emerging from my self
to consciousness,
(left the radio on all night again).
A stoic voice relates the reality of
The Day That Saved The World,
when thousands sacrificed their lives
and gave today to you and me
to wonder at or waste at will.

They lay still in sand and mud
awash in tide.
A horror-struck eye popped out,
suspended by the optic nerve
against a chisled cheek,
once tenderly caressed and kissed.
Intestines strewn like bloodied rope,
still digest the final meal
heartily taken in the mess
amidst the babble of back-slap jokes
to allay the fear of battle; of death.
Enjoy your food and the company of friends.

Uncontrollably I weep.
My eye upon my cheek.
Somewhere deep beneath
the comfort-zone of consciousness
my soul still grieves.

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New Shoes

Will you
try me
shiny & new
Throwing out
the old is
tough cracked leather
a certain comfort
even though
it leaks.

B f Clark
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Once this fog burns off
I'll be able to see
the tops of things;
the world again;
infinity blue.
Slate-grey winter
spins into the past
and round we go
once more.

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Wet Feet

I'm always embarassed
walking past the shoe-shine man.
My uppers are tarnished
and we both know.
What he doesn't see,
as I hurry by,
eyes averted,
is the crack in my sole
letting in water.

I want you.
I find it hard
being so close.
It's not the worry
of seeming unpolished,
it's the fear you may see
a crack in my soul.


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A San Francisco Affair I

Great Ocean Liner of a city,
All lit up.
Silhouette against a western evening sky
of vermillion, crimson and peacock blue.

Majestic lady of a city,
your pearls strung out across the bay
and whispy vapour veils
draped across soft curves.

Each time I return,
I know the joy and certainty of heart
That I have come home.


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A San Francisco Affair II

Deep down among the canyons,
The Sax-man plays.
His hues of blues
rise and paint
an evening sky.

Above a cool Californian current
the Great Fog stirs
and moves ashore.

Amoeba vapour fingers probe
and crest Twin Peaks,
then tumble down
to mute the sound,
cloaking blues in grey,
sweeping all before
into the Bay.


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A San Francisco Affair III

Fuschia frolics on Filbert's
wooden steps,
among the fragrant blooms
and dew-draped webs of morning hours.
She comes to me each day
as I descend,
indifferent to my mews
and pretty-kitty talk.
(I wonder if she cares.)
But she presents herself
for just one more caress,
each eve,
as I ascend the stairs.


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How's it going?

"Hi. How's it going?"

"How's it going?"

Mostly to the right these days.
And mostly to white men.
It's going into greed of individuals and nations,
Converting clean air and condors
Into trinkets for the shopping channel,
And the mall.

It's going down the toilet,
And into the oceans;
Into the bellies of whales;
Then locked into Antarctic ice.
Maybe that's a good thing.
Maybe that's the smoking gun
History requires
To convict this generation.

It's going into money markets.
"A pound of greed please.
And I'll take a bunch of power.
I'll use my media
To wash off the dirt.
By the time I'm finished
You'll love the taste".

It's going into inane TV shows.
Subliminal conditioning,
Not by design,
But by apathy.
Throw me another can of laughter -
And a Bud..

It's going into
Senate race sound bites.
"Oh, but it's their money!", you say.
Think about it.

It's going down
Into poverty and despair.
Into drugs and guns.
If they won't share
The dream..

It's going into bloody conflict.
Into million-dollar,
Or a simple bayonet
thrust up under the ribs.
And a severed head
For punctuation.
Then into the red water
With 11,000 others
From the wrong tribe.

It's going in the name of religion.
Love one another
With a pure heart,
Send your check to Pat & Jimmy.
God bless you.

How's it going?

same ol', same ol'.

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My last thoughts of you
were as I strode
through a Redwood grove,
trees clinging to an earthy slope,
stretching toward the Sun,
whose filtered rays flecked the ferns
and forest floor in dappled light.
Life all around and within.
I knew you were clinging
to your own mountain Mead,
so, on stopping by a tripping stream,
water bouncing, chasing air -
much like you when you were young -
I spent some time with you
and reached out to catch
a shaft of light in hope
that I could channel
energy your way, and,
having believed I did, smiled.
But only a fool would think
that such a simple act could
urge your soul to cheat
the natural passage of your time.
Your life, not mine,
not even Tom's nor Jane's.
Your passage of days on this Earth.
Your big-lump,
"Where's my food?" and
These perfect days;
always loved;
always come home to;
always there,
til now.
Meow, Meadles,


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He was 22.
She was eight.
He flew
Grew up in a small village
A fighter in ‘Nam.
Played in the fields of paradise,
Ran sorties from a carrier,
With her friends.
Pitching and rolling
Helped with the rice harvest;
In the Gulf of Tonkin.
Charmed everyone with her smile.
Sometimes three a day.
Her grandfather made her
They only carried two bombs.
A reed doll.
Landing at night was hard.
She was talking to it when the planes came.
The training was rigorous.
A noise she’d never known.
Only the best got through.
First the house was engulfed in flames;
Those friends who died,
Then the buffalo;
Died in training.
Then the skin on her back;
The first in a fire:
Then her arm.
Plastic helmet melted to skull.
The corpse lay there for two days,
It took 36 hours of screaming to die.
Clutching a missing doll.
He gets off the bus,
She was buried with her grandfather.
To go and watch Monday Night Football.


B. f. Clark

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Self Renewal
(On learning that ALL our cells are replaced over a  decade)


It’s an extreme kind of revisionist history –
Re-inventing oneself each decade.
A ten year old clone.
Nothing left of the young man
who left those shores with
hope, expectation and fear.
No vestige of the lips’ first kiss,
save perhaps, uncertain memory.
I am disturbed that these old bones
are not old, but bad.
Flawed copies of
Flawed copies of
Faulted originals.
The image is becoming blurred;
There are scratches on the drum;
Lines across the screen –
Colour washed out.

Perhaps digital is the way to go.
A pure copy every time.
But where’s the evolution in that?
Where’s the luxury of letting the past go?



Aug 1999

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A San Francisco Affair IV


A flight of pelicans heads for home.
Those big beautiful birds beat their wings
Through the balmy evening air
And glide in line low above the silky calm.
No breeze to tease a wave to crest
Amongst the gentle swell.

A translucent moon takes the evening stage
As blue gives way to dusky pinks and wispy purple veils.
The last rays of the day glint upon
the cables of the bridge
then brush the underbellies of clouds.
Colors that can only be matched in the palette of the mind.

Swirls of neon, fiery pinks, sweep across the Pacific sky,
deepening to crimson against the ever-changing hues of blue.
An aurora borealis of sunset clouds.
A caught breath of wonder
and another memory.


B. F. Clark
July 3rd 2001


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