Excerpt from Selected Poems by Amy Clampitt, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Selected Poems

by Amy Clampitt

Selected Poems
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  • Paperback:
    Oct 2010, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Marnie Colton

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iola, kansas

Riding all night, the bus half empty, toward the interior,
among refineries, trellised and turreted illusory cities,
the crass, the indispensable wastefulness of oil rigs
offshore, of homunculi swigging at the gut of a continent:

the trailers, the semis, the vans, the bumper stickers,
slogans in day- glo invoking the name of Jesus, who knows
what it means: the air waves, the brand name, the backyard
Barbie- doll barbecue, graffiti in video, the burblings,

the dirges: heart like a rock, I said Kathy I’m lost,
the scheme is a mess, we’ve left Oklahoma, its cattle,
sere groves of pecan trees interspersing the horizonless
belch and glare, the alluvium of the auto junkyards,

we’re in Kansas now, we’ve turned off the freeway,
we’re meandering, as again night falls, among farmsteads,
the little towns with the name of a girl on the watertower,
the bandstand in the park at the center, the churches

alight from within, perpendicular banalities of glass
candy- streaked purple- green- yellow (who is this Jesus?),
the strangeness of all there is, whatever it is, growing
stranger, we’ve come to a rest stop, the name of the girl

on the watertower is Iola: no video, no vending machines,
but Wonder Bread sandwiches, a pie: “It’s boysenberry,
I just baked it today,” the woman behind the counter
believably says, the innards a purply glue, and I eat it

with something akin to reverence: free refills from
the Silex on the hot plate, then back to our seats,
the loud suction of air brakes like a thing alive, and
the voices, the sleeping assembly raised, as by an agency

out of the mystery of the interior, to a community—
and through some duct in the rock I feel my heart go out,
out here in the middle of nowhere (the scheme is a mess)
to the waste, to the not knowing who or why, and am happy.

times square water music

By way of a leak
in the brickwork
beside a stairway
in the Times Square
subway, midway
between the IR
and the BM T, weeks
of sneaking seepage
had smuggled in,
that morning,
a centimeter
of standing water.

To ward off the herd
we tend to turn into,
turned loose on
the tiered terrain
of the Times Square
subway, somebody
had tried, with
a half- hearted
barricade or tether
of twine,
to cordon off
the stairway—

as though anyone
could tie up seepage
into a package—
down which the
water, a dripping
escapee, was surreptitiously
proceeding
with the intent,
albeit inadvertent,
in time, at an
inferior level,
to make a lake.

Having gone round
the pond thus far
accumulated, bound
for the third, infrainfernal
hollow
of the underground,
where the N, RR,
and QB cars are
wont to travel,
in mid- descent I
stopped, abruptly waylaid
by a sound.

Alongside the ironrunged
nethermost
stairway, under
the banister,
a hurrying skein
of moisture had begun,
on its way down,
to unravel
into the trickle
of a musical
minuscule
waterfall.

Think of spleenwort,
of moss
and maidenhair
fernwork,
think of water
pipits, of ouzels
and wagtails
dipping into
the course of it
as the music
of it oozes
from the walls!

Think of it
undermining
the computer’s
cheep, the time
clock’s hiccup,
the tectonic
inchings of it
toward some
general crackup!
Think of it, think of
water running, running,
running till it
falls!

  • 1

Excerpted from Selected Poems by Amy Clampitt. Copyright © 2010 by Amy Clampitt. Excerpted by permission of Knopf. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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