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Poetry Moment: 'Ultrasound: Your Picture' by George David Clark

George David Clark.jpg
MORGAN BUCHAS
/

Poetry Moment on WPSU is a program featuring the work of contemporary Pennsylvania poets. Host Todd Davis is a professor of English and Environmental Studies at Penn State Altoona.

This episode’s poem is “Ultrasound: Your Picture” by George David Clark.

George David Clark is the author of Reveille, winner of the Miller Williams Prize, and Newly Not Eternal, forthcoming from Louisiana State University Press. His recent poems appear in Crazyhorse, Ecotone, Five Points, Georgia Review, and other journals. He is the editor of the journal 32 Poems and teaches at Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania. Since 2015, he has lived with his wife and four young children in southwestern PA.

With the advent of all kinds of medical technology, our relationship to certain life-changing events has been transformed. For many as they move through pregnancy, periodic ultrasounds—a form of sonography that uses sound waves to produce images of structures within the body—have become routine, offering glimpses of the life that grows inside the woman’s body. But the mystery of that life, what we imagine it might become, is not revealed by an ultrasound. Perhaps the formal structures of a poem are better suited to such revelations, especially in the wake of a child’s premature death.

In today’s poem, George David Clark transforms his grief over the loss of his son into a poem that explores and argues with why such loss is visited upon us.

Here’s—

Ultrasound: Your Picture

                               —Henry Thomas Clark, 10/7/14

We’ve framed an ultrasound
           of you and Peter

holding hands
           (or almost) in the womb,

your moon-bright arms
           crossed in a black balloon

with week, and weights,
           and heights in millimeters

penciled on the side.
           We say it’s good

that he, at least, was with you
           when you died,

that unlike us
           you’ll never know the why

of being lonely
           or what naked falsehood

feels like in one’s mind.
           You see, it’s false

to say your death
           was somehow grace. It’s grace

that spared Cain’s life
           and later gave Eve other

sons, despite creation’s
           wastes and faults.

I wish you could have known
           love’s aftertastes.

I wish you’d had a chance
           to hate your brother.

——————

That was “Ultrasound: Your Picture” by George David Clark.

Hear more episodes of Poetry Moment at WPSU.org/poetrymoment.

Music by Eric Ian Farmer.

Todd Davis is the 2022-23 host of "Poetry Moment" on WPSU.