Valiant En Abyme

By Joshua Clover b. 1962 Joshua Clover
Our grand peregrinations through these temporary cities,
These pale window box poppies of the laughing class,
Drifting as if time came in the same long dollops as starlight,
Resemble an epic journey as a coffee bean resembles a llama’s foot,
Though the kitchen table may be far from the desert
It’s near in spirit, a yellow oasis before the wind
Starts its restless sweeping of white flower-dust across the lintel,
Marking the fine edge of things like children asleep
At the opera, piled up near the door, summer passing
On its way out. Prince Valiant vowed to sew the horizons
Into a single idea, to put on the blue dress of distance,
Looping past rivers and mountains as one leaps from bed
To bed to make loneliness lonely, the suburbs were for him
A relief, a pageant of calm desire where he settled,
All the king’s horses grazing on forsythia out back
While the evening tilts back out of the night, a kindly drunk
Uncle, and asks you to stay. Was this the end of traveling?
Or just a change in the story over time, as for example how
Tous les chevaux du roi become Josie and the Pussycats
From one version to the next? So all heroes are deranged
By something quite common yet unexpected, a constellation
Redrawn and named again through the stars
Above the porch don’t shift but seem to sink
Through winter’s pitcher of noircotic ink,
Leaving a single streetlight that burned happily,
Thinking it was the sun, after all it was the day
Of the night and turned the world around it,
We were good sentences and forgot where we started.

Joshua Clover, “Valiant En Abyme” from The Totality for Kids. Copyright © 2006 by Joshua Clover. Reprinted by permission of University of California Press.

Source: The Totality for Kids (University of California Press, 2006)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Joshua Clover b. 1962


Subjects Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets, Language & Linguistics, Social Commentaries, Popular Culture, Cities & Urban Life

Poetic Terms Free Verse


Poet, scholar, and journalist Joshua Clover was born in 1962 in Berkeley, California. An alumnus of Boston University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Clover has published three volumes of poetry: Red Epic (2015), The Totality for Kids (2006), and Madonna anno domini (1997). His poems have also appeared three times in the Best American Poetry series. He has written three books of cultural and political . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets, Language & Linguistics, Social Commentaries, Popular Culture, Cities & Urban Life


Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.