By George David Clark

Henry Thomas Clark, 10/7/14

I. Your Picture

We’ve framed an ultrasound
of you and Peter

holding hands
(or almost) in the womb,

your moon-bright arms
crossed in a black balloon

with week, and weights,
and heights in millimeters

penciled on the side.
We say it’s good

that he, at least, was with you
when you died,

that unlike us
you’ll never know the why

of being lonely
or what naked falsehood

feels like in one’s mind.
You see, it’s false

to say your death
was somehow grace. It’s grace

that spared Cain’s life
and later gave Eve other

sons, despite creation’s
wastes and faults.

I wish you could have known
love’s aftertastes.

I wish you’d had a chance
to hate your brother.

II. Your Mirror

I wish you’d had a chance
to hate your brother’s

charming smile,
how it would softly chafe

your teeth; his eyes,
the way they’d misbehave

above your cheeks; his tongue
might bait your stutter.

Nights, in the mirror
you’d have seen your lovers

kiss his lips, and mornings
as you’d shave

you’d nick yourself
and wonder who forgave

you when the face you shared
caused him to suffer.

No. No childhood scars
will make it clearer

which you are.
We’ll have a future tense

for Peter, while you’re left
at one night less

than one night old,
my son without a likeness,

whom I can’t hold
or half-behold, condensed

to shadows in the nursery’s
lightless mirror.

III. Your Shadows

The shadows in the nursery’s
lifeless mirror

owe their nights to no one;
you were gone

before the lights
could pin those umbras on.

If now they gather here
in tangles sheerer

than a nest of nylon
hose, yet nearer

flesh than atmosphere,
they must be drawn

as I am by the dimmed
lamp’s denouement—

this stupid wish your guise
might still cohere or

that some phantom wisp
could throw its shade

and let the smallest
sliver of you loom

against the wall. Instead,
daybreak exhumes

this catch of shadows
till they’ve all been weighed

and matched to furniture.
My shape has stayed

to cast your name
into the empty room.

IV: Your Room

I cast your name
into the empty room

and make the place more
empty still: the chair’s

clean seat adopts
a misanthropic air

that mocks the bureau’s
sympathetic bloom.

I watch the wooden crib
as it’s consumed

by morning, bar by bar,
till crying downstairs

lets me know
how far this solitary

staring has erased
me in the gloom.

Your healthy twin
is hungry, tired, parched,

and wet, or simply
needing to be held,

and yet I still don’t move.
I feel compelled

to tell the room
it’s missing you, to mark

the vacuum with a few
more decibels

of Henry, Henry,
Henry Thomas Clark.

V: Your Names

My Henry, Henry, Henry
Thomas Clark:

your name’s an ingot—
if I even think it

after midnight
in the bedroom’s dark

the kiln my mind is
fires to sing it

out of shape, to turn
its sounds to trinkets

or just melt it down
to question marks

so I can ladle up
that pink and drink it

till my ears drown
and the dreaming starts.

Your sister’s “Gemma-
Lemon” in her fruit

pajamas, Georgie-Boy’s
my little buddy,

and Pete these days
is simply “the recruit.”

Beneath my desk
you’d be “my understudy,”

“Huffy Hank” in tears,
or “Huckleputty”

sweetly teething
on your mom’s Bluetooth.

VI: Your Urn

Tonight Pete’s teething
on your mom’s Bluetooth.

He found the scissors
to derange his hair.

We’ve left the gate
down and he’s on the stairs,

or else he’s scrambled
up the dollhouse roof.

The crumpled books
and cracker crumbs are proof

he’s loose . . . disordered
blocks, a toppled chair. . . .

Some days he’s absolutely

until I wish him gone,
to tell the truth.

Not you. You stay
exactly as you’re left:

the tame and quiet twin,
the easy one,

the boy who never
makes a mess, the son

whose very name’s
our shibboleth

for innocence, whose
only fault is done—

who never cries, or fights,
or takes a breath.

VII: Your Image

You never cry, or fight,
or take a breath,

but you wreck pictures
just like any child.

These days our crowded
foregrounds show the cleft

and no amount
of staging reconciles

the family’s best
lopsided photo ops.

Your mom, positioning
one shot remarks,

Just think how this would look
with Henry propped

in Daddy’s lap
this picture needs six Clarks.

Of course, we have
the images we took

in the recovery room
when nurses brought

your body in your blanket,
but I won’t look

at those. You’re in these others,
though you’re not:

our half-filled stroller
is a double-seater.

We’ve framed the ultrasound
of you and Peter.