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Smoking Tom Clark's Spell
by Skip Fox

The Spell: A Romance, by Tom Clark
Black Sparrow, Santa Rosa, 2000
paperback, $16.

How many times have I written lovely in the margins of this book after a page, paragraph or line like "I will give up my mind for you"? Rush of hyperbolic blood, wish I'd written that, not to be known for it, but that its original force might warm me later. It's a beautiful line. A joke about calibration. This is, after all, a romance, in the measure of which Clark casts the "atmospherical medium" about as far as it might go and still "make the book" on man, his emotional na‘vet», wild estrangements and confusions, his idealism which is, perhaps, more a psychological tic (as in, "what makes him tic?"), and so forth. It's a beautiful book of lustrous darkness, both comic and toxic. Something howling in the cavities of words.
     A spell is space welling up in time, an interval, clearing, then closing, "time has come to move on," Clark writes, back into the land, in this case "the country I come from" as well, some spirit-addled upper-lake region midway in some century which hasn't yet occurred, except like a bomb in the night. (Maybe like a phantom bomb where you wake up knowing you heard it.) A land of alien landing strips, "interrogation yards of religious residences," two-headed dogs, puppet-dwarfs, mechanical owls, sunken mildewed nuthead elms, "swarms of no-see-ums," hallucinatory wig bubbles, et alii mixed into the swirl of a careening anamorphic narrative, the recursions of which become legends, look through the inscrutable windows of the alphabet, and into the eyes of your mind, Don't think you can't be taken.
     Jokes like little mechanical moles tearing up the surface, an injection insertion at the circus, a little sickness with every punchline, and tunnels beneath the turf of green dark in the earliest of hours (far upstream from Paterson!). So who first wrote the legends that became the letters of which the spell is cast, stirring phantasmal sounds and shapes in the mind, like stirring a child in bed? Deor, the "Seafarer" poet, Malory, Marlow, Cotton Mather (in drag), Irving, Hawthorne and Poe, Longfellow (on windowpane), late Twain and Faulkner, Pynchon, Dorn, early Cormac McCarthy, T. C. Boyle, to list a portion of one line--do I hear Arshile Gorky as well, some restless nightmare dosing within the architecture of grasses, dreaming of stars' decay?
      This romance (see Hawthorne, above) is both novel and old, prose and poetry alive at the border, as skin or blood-brain barrier. The poetry is often as lovely as anything I've seen in the interstices, any interstices, or on the other side of any membrane. In these intervals, clearings, forms rise from the lakes of toxic legend, or from mud, rise like nymphs, shoulders and wingblades first (Can the world be both toxic and comic? How not?), rise before your face and disappear as peripeties collapse, always a shock like the echo of something that never happened. As I said, the poetry is lovely and although there is a languorous exchange of bodily fluids with the prose, it has maintained as well its precoital state of ripe promiscuity. I know it's magic. So what? What it is is a real pleasure to read someone who cares about writing (As opposed to what? Well, you know, those unconsidered notions of social responsibility or of the self), much less someone who cares and can write and in whose voice we'd find a man who put his life to it, and his mind, and has found it considerable.
      And hell, after you read it, you can always smoke it, right?

Skip Fox teaches in Lafayette. In spare time he manufactures designer colostomy bags and write laugh tracks for snuff flicks.


Two books available through Small Press Distribution (Bloody Twin Press), another (OASii Press) free on request.



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