DeWitt Brinson: You are holding your breath under water sitting at the bottom of a public swimming pool. It's a warm day. Slowly, you see an apology float by. Describe it.

Ryan Clark: Slick, like oil, but cutting like an lash under my lid. It makes me want to urinate. Everything, it seems, makes me want to urinate. The apology is like all the time needing to pee.

DB: Every day, after waking up, you go to the kitchen and make yourself a bowl of cereal. But today, the cereal box is empty. You turn around just in time to see a monster slinking away. What do you do?

RC: I run to get the vacuum cleaner, turn it on, and approach the monster. Monsters hate vacuum cleaners. And then, of course, I feel guilty. Why should I want to scare this monster in the first place? I didn’t even want cereal. I apologize to the monster, but then I feel the need to urinate, and so I do so in a corner, huddled. In the end I invite the monster to grab some doughnuts for breakfast instead, and I fill that guilty core inside me with something like love but which is actually a magnificent chocolate cream filled long john.

DB: What hurts?

RC: The fact that I don’t really have any doughnuts at all.

DB: What harms?

RC: What charms the arm hates the water. At sea, our mess is the wait. The sour mist. This is it. The I is it. This shit.

DB: Someone prints out your poems, paper mache's them into a machete, then chops your head off while you’re waiting in line for the bathroom at a gas station. What do people say at your funeral that you wish they wouldn't?

RC: He was nice, but his neck was made of very soft cheese.

DB: Someone makes a video game based on your poems. What does the final level look like?

RC: ___::____:.....:____:..^..^..^..:___I}___*_*{I#]____<[‘]__ <[‘]__ <[‘]__([])_

A phone flips open. You are drawn inside. Everything around you is text. You are made of text, but you don’t mean anything. You’re just a symbol that looks like a face. Time passes. Longer and longer stretches of time. You cross gorges. Coming toward you now is a larger face than yours, and it is shooting asterisks at you, qualifying everything. Excuses, apologies, the guilt of it. Behind this larger face are three evil penguins, or they might be doors. They might be screens. Try the beaks. Wait to see if they peck you to death, if that’s an egg behind them or a drain.

DB: You're on fire standing beside Sylvia Plath. She makes no effort to help you. What question do you ask her?

RC: Why couldn’t you just let me in the oven with you?

DB: When I read your poems, I feel like every morning I'm waking up in a panic that subsides within moments. I forget about it and go on with my day, only to wake-up in the same state the next morning. Why do I feel that way?

RC: The monster never leaves. Each new day brings new potential for monstrosity, and this is initially quite overwhelming, but then we get used to it, which is terrifying to me. This is what we call alarming.

DB: What's the best gift you've ever been given?

RC: Two $5 gift certificates to Denny’s Doughnuts in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois.

DB: You are in a hallway forking off into two paths. A small bird, whom you assume for no reason is a god, seems to be intimating that going to the left will lead you to your perfect body but terrible health and to your right is the chance at perfect health but the ugliest possible body for you. Do you go right or left?

RC: Urine all wavering often, autopath as a male beard, a womb uses me, a foreign song. Is a god some tube in time, a dying thought in a tooth. Left will eat you, tear your face to butter, a bleeding tire. Right is the seance, a sadder face. All the butt ugly eyes show fury. Do I go right or left? I don’t want a perfect body or perfect health, and so I stop and wait to die, already ugly as sin.



interviewed by the tender, young, virile writer

DeWitt Brinson

Ryan Clark wants to make a pun. He thinks about puns while working on his dissertation, while teaching and writing at Illinois State University, while eating cereal (Cheery Hose?). In his poetry he is largely concerned with the reparative potential of homophonic translation, but really this is just another excuse to make a pun. His work has appeared in Fact-Simile, Monkey Puzzle, Flaneur Foundry, and Seven Corners.