Gatekeeper of Spring by Harlow Clark

Vor dem Gesetz steht ein Türhüter
–Franz Kafka

K. is the gatekeeper to spring
Marching me through February.
Vacuuming the chapel and halls I listen
To K cleaning the schoolhouse
Trying to make a home there
Waiting to be called up.

Biking town to town and street to street
I hear the mazes of Amerika
The gatekeeper before the gatekeeper before the gatekeeper
Before the law, vor dem Gesetz,
Knife passing from hand to hand
Before the final plunge and twist.

Hearing twenty-one hours I found myself back
In Brent Chambers’ German 3 class at Provo High.
“Time for a donut run,” Herr Chambers said,
“Take my car.”
“It’s just across the street.”
He threw me his keys anyway.

The parking lot became a steep climb
Till I saw the rollercoaster cars
Coming straight for me.
A movie cliché rescued me
As I jammed the car in reverse
And roared backwards down the tracks
Just ahead of the coaster.

Back on the ground
The parking lot gatekeeper stopped me.
“No leaving the grounds during school hours.”
“I’m coming right back.”
“No leaving.”
“I’m not even a student here,
Just come for a visit.”
“We’ll see about that.”

I defeat the gatekeeper by waking up–
Down the hall, down the stairs, back up the hall
To the bathroom.
Stepping through the curtain at the foot of the stairs
I glance across the family room.

Outside the sliding glass door
A tall brown head
Cylindrical like a Tiki god carved from a coconut log.

I step forward to examine the texture of the bark.
The head turns to me,
I see the body sitting at the edge of the lawn
I back away, knowing when I bring back camera the deer will be gone.

For a year I mull this scene
Till one Saturday night
My friend e-mails an invite to celebrate
Spring with a poem for her blog–
Ends Monday.

The next day in Sunday School as King Benjamin teaches Atonement
I remember today is Orthodox Easter.
K. Chi. Chi Rho. Chi Rose.
Like a medieval deer he bounded
Over the gatekeepers,
And the gatekeepers of gatekeepers of gatekeepers.
No gatekeeper,
No twist of nine inch nails,
No stone coasting down a roller before a garden tomb
Could keep him from springing the gates of death.


Harlow Clark pedals to work down what was a 2-lane country road when he moved to Pleasant Grove, Utah 18 years ago. Since the I-15 interchange went in Sam White Lane (Sam White’s) has been bisected by Pleasant Grove Blvd and partly rerouted. Just before the lane goes over the freeway there used to be a veterinary practice. In an interview for a news story the vet told Harlow he could gauge the transformation of north Utah County from rural to urban by the disappearance of large animals from his patients. Harlow traces the transformation by the disappearance of the home and veterinary hospital and the appearance of a two-story office building (though by New York City standards the whole state is rural). He became aware awhile back that he has written several poems featuring animals, and is working them into a chapbook called Dinosaur Water.

*Competition entry*

Mesa Verde Subdivision by Harlow S. Clark

(after reading €œDeer in the City € by Patricia Karamesines)

Deer rise up from the page
Like the walls of stone houses from the Mesa
As we top a rise on our drive across the Mesa
A few years after fire drove across
Uncovering new pots, new sites

The stone houses uncovered old memory
Older than the 40-odd years I have longed for this place
I had seen them in my childhood visits
But they weren’t what I longed for

Cliff Palace, filling its underhang, overshadowed the wonder
Of this suburban neighborhood
Houses in rows
Kiva for worship and gathering

We drove past €”but Cliff Palace had closed for the day
And there was an extra tour cost
Spruce Tree House was open and free

Donna stayed in the museum to rest her feet
(How many check dams would have wished to retain what they did?)

Matthew and I took path and stairs into the canyon
And I rested where the path curves around the canyon wall
An underhang too small for stone rooms
Or too wet.

I have always heard they left when the water left
€œOnly in the Cliff Palace twenty years € the sign says
They had granaries
But the check dams couldn’t hold water for the seven lean kine
Did they keep kine?

This alcove is wet, water dripping, running
Did it dry up?
Looking out at Spruce Tree House I hope they felt this place’s peace
What stories did they tell by the fire, in the fields, on the hunt?
They left stories on canyon walls, but the hike is too far this late

Thinking of pots found after the fire I ask a ranger
€œHave you ever found a kiln? €
€œWe uncovered one when we were remodeling the museum, € she says.

Back atop the Mesa I wander the single story houses
Awed at the memory of cities and suburbs
How odd to find that word in children of Israel’s parceling of Canaan
But which is the suburb, this stone village?
The cliff houses €”surely too grand for tenements?
Those children playing in the dusk,
What do their mothers say when they ask
To go visit friends in the cliffs, to sleep over?

The words, €œDeer in the city after dusk €” €
Take me back there, or maybe it is the em-dash
That prompts, €œOf course they had deer on the Mesa.
And they came into town at night and in winter. €

And I wonder what they saw, the deer, the people
Did they share their crops?
Use wolf urine for scaredeer?

€œHe says they’re oversized rodents eating the orchard, €
My friend Bela says of his friend who lives at the Manila bend as you go out to Cedar Hills
€œAnd they do eat daffodils. €


To read Harlow’s bio and more of his poetry on WIZ, go here and here.

*contest entry*

Dinosaur Water by Harlow S. Clark

We drink the same water the dinosaurs drank
–News Item

That one up there, towards the top, Camarasaurus
That skull provided the first evidence dinosaurs could hear
We found a complete set of ear bones

–David Whitman, Dinosaur National Monument, quarry building

The climate was much like it is today, he said
I imagine them by the river
Eating grass and deciduous leaves, sycamore and poplar
Drinking water and making water

Summer flow falling off
Spring flow increasing
When they heard the springing rush of mighty waters
Did they know it was their destroyer riding with power?

Passing over, tumbling them like rocks to be displayed
In their pride
On a cliff wall, mud long gone to rock
Water circling the earth for millennia of millennia

Filling this well for Rebekah to draw buckets, making water
A friendship offering for a traveler’s camels
As her son will roll the stone from the well and make water
Available to Rachel’s sheep
As Ammon will make water
Safe for Lamoni’s herders,
As Moses will make water
Pour from the rock
As Yeshua will make water
Into wine and call fishers across the water
To leave their nets and thresh the nations
To gather the sheaves grown from the water God made
To water the earth
As I make water
And bread and memory my Easter offering.
To read Harlow’s bio and more of his poems on WIZ, go here and here.

*contest entry*

Beautification by Harlow S. Clark

€œI’ve always pictured Cedar Hills as a daffodil city. They’re beautiful and the deer won’t eat them.”

€œHe’s laughing. €
€œSorry. It’s just such a good quote. €
€œI’ll look for it in the paper. €

An hour later the reporter stops short of his car.
Three night-lit deer on the lawn,
Across the street three more in the retention basin.

Beautification eaters.
Deer, watchers,
What do they see?
Pasture? Food? Pests?

€œDo you have deer in your yard? €
His mother will ask this — many times —
When she sees a deer
Or remembers the buck sitting under the swing set,
Rising in the shadow, walking into moonlight
Moving downhill into the garden.
€œThey don’t come down this far.
We live too far from the mountain, €
He always says.

Yet they do come down.
He pictures the deer he will see tomorrow
At the top of Lindon hill
As he pedals to work,
Sees the red patch scraped of fur.
Hide? Muscle? Jerky?

Instead he looks at the life before him
Prays them safe passage across the highway
Safe from himself, from other drivers,
Safe passage up the mountain,

And drives away from their green pastures.

Harlow Clark lives works and writes in a subdivided orchard in Pleasant Grove, Utah where people plant fruit trees in memory of those the developer displaced, and deer don’t generally visit. He mostly writes a combination of Marxist literary criticism–“the spirit of Groucho is upon me”–and personal essay. He is a prolific stringer for local papers, 1500-2000 articles and photos published. “Beautification” grew out of a city council discussion he was covering.

*contest entry*

“Easter Sermons” by Harlow Clark


The Rancher Speaks

I was in the sheep business for years.
Sold off my sheep and got into the cattle business and now I have friends.
The cattle men talk to me.
I suppose what finally drove me out was the predators.
The eagles swooping down and taking newborn lambs
and there was nothing we could do about it.
We tried noisemakers and other things.
Finally we heard about Great Pyrenees dogs.
You put 2 in the pen and they protect the sheep.
Well, my cousin and I drove up to Idaho
and the fellow wanted $500 apiece for them.
We each bought two.
We put them in the pens and they started right in doing what they were supposed to.

Bringing the sheep in from the spring field we found 30 head and a dog missing.
We had a higher pasture so my wife and I drove up there.
We found the 30 head and the dog
— limping and thin and shaggy.
It was apparent he had fought off some predators,
and he had worn out his feet.
I put him in the back of the truck,
but he wanted to get out so I tied him in,
and my wife started down to the lower pasture to put out food and water,
and I walked the sheep,
but she stopped.

The Great Pyrenees was hanging over the edge of the bed.
Well, I tied him in tighter,
but he started hanging over the side of the bed and he managed to slip out of his collar.
He wasn’t going to let anything keep him from his job.
When we got down to the lower pasture he barely stopped for a drink,
then went back to his sheep.
He died a few days later.
I was a sheepman, he a shepherd.
The cost to be a good shepherd is everything.


The Rancher’s Wife Comes to the Pulpit

Not a shepherd? Perhaps, but let me tell you about his ducks.
He bought a new batch of chicks and ducks, keeps them out in the garage.
He’s really good about keeping them fed and watered and the box cleaned out.
He had them in the same box but the ducks weren’t being nice to the chicks.
He told me one day. “I’m worried about this one. Its feet are cold.”
When he worries I worry.

Going down to the basement I heard water running in the bathroom.
He was washing the duck’s feet.
I thought about the Savior washing Peter’s feet
And how at first Peter didn’t want it.
Sometimes we let our pride get in the way of what the Savior needs.
When Peter understood this he said, “Lord wash all of me,
Hands, head, feet and all.”
But the feet suffice to warm the duck.


Harlow Soderborg Clark grew up in Provo, spending many an hour on the living room carpet listening to a couple of Smothers Brothers albums.   He thinks of their character, “poor, dull, mediocre Fred,” as an alter ego. He also has an altar ego writing a fiction called Sacrament Meeting in the Alzheimers Ward, which includes a character who turns peoples’ talks into poems. Harlow is on hiatus (soon to end, he hopes) from blogging on AMV about Book of Mormon textual changes. He thanks Leslie Norris for ideas about simplicity which allowed him to recognize this poem when he heard it.

*Contest entry*