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)

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Poet Joshua Clover b. 1962

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

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

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Biography

Poet, critic, and journalist Joshua Clover was born in 1962 in Berkeley, Calif. An alumnus of Boston University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Clover has published two volumes of poetry, Madonna anno domini (1997) and The Totality for Kids (2006). His poems have also appeared three times in Best American Poetry, and he has written two books of film and cultural criticism: The Matrix (2005) and 1989: Bob Dylan Didn’t Have This . . .

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Poem Categorization

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

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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