ISBN: 978-1-59948-897-4, 80 pages, $15 (+ shipping)
Projected Release Date: October 12, 2021
The Advance Sale Discount for this title has expired. For those who prefer to pay by check, the price is $19.50/book (which includes shipping) and should be sent to: Main Street Rag, PO BOX 690100, Charlotte, NC 28227-7001.
PLEASE NOTE: Ordering in advance of the release date does not mean the book will ship before the date posted above.
Gary Lark has been a carpenter, janitor, hospital aide, salesman, storyteller, fly fisherman and librarian. Books include: Daybreak on the Water (Flowstone Press), Ordinary Gravity (Airlie Press), River of Solace, Editor’s Choice Chapbook Award from Turtle Island Quarterly (Flowstone Press), In the House of Memory (BatCat Press), Without a Map (Wellstone Press), Getting By, Holland Prize (Logan House Press). Gary and his wife Dorothy live in the Oregon’s Rogue Valley.
Rarely does a book of poems bring me to tears. But Easter Creek did just that. Here are the young in one another’s arms, the aged and infirm; the long-contented and the dispossessed, and others whose stories of hardship and endurance are the stuff of legend, whose lives are a testament to the dignity, tenacity, and goodness of the human spirit. Each masterfully-understated narrative honors working-class friends, neighbors, and strangers whose folkways and inner complexities revolve around each other in the hills of southwest Oregon. “Reverence has a thousand hands,” writes Gary Lark. And reverence rings throughout each page of this loving and beautiful book. ~Ingrid Wendt, Oregon Book Award recipient, author of Evensong
Gary Lark’s Easter Creek will convey you in an old truck on easy springs out from the labyrinth of modern flash and show back to the honorable neighborhood of local life—and give you there what people say and do and want in essential terms. His lyric graces are spoken softly, deftly, saying just enough to leave you filling out the moment, completing the scene he has sketched with thrifty hints. These poems are in good company with John Prine, Ted Kooser, Edgar Lee Masters—quietly urging affection for the community that E.M. Forster called “the true aristocracy of the plucky and the good.” Come home to these poems and their people, in company with a narrator by turns mystified, enthralled, wearied, and humbled—but always a true patriot of local life. ~Kim Stafford, author of Singer Come from Afar
Sweat rolls down my sides,
the insides of my thighs.
It’s a money job,
building the deck around a pool
I will never swim in,
saying, yes I’ll do that.
Where do you want this?
I’ll see you tomorrow.
The gate clanks shut.
I know the code today
but I won’t in a week.
My dusty blue pickup snakes
down Mountain View Drive
by houses that drop in price as I descend.
Green Mountain Lumber
used to sit where a subdivision
creeps down to the river,
three different styles, your choice.
There’s work in McKinley
for us hammer jockeys.
I follow Turner Road out of the dun hills
toward Easter Creek, sunlight reflects
from windows of the old Lathrop Creamery
where we bought ice cream in brown paper tubs
when summers were endless.
I cross the river into a small crop of bungalows,
kids play hopscotch in receding light
and words fill again along with soup pots,
our four streetlights popping on.
Brenda stirs Ragu into the hamburger
and puts noodles in to boil.
She makes spaghetti every three days.
Ladd watches, legs splayed,
beer bottle in hand.
They had raced down the coast
until the money ran out
and Ladd started spreading bark mulch.
Brenda is still looking.
She had computer classes in school
and thinks about an office job.
Their little house sits on the hard sand
of a former dune, mildew and blackberries
holding it together.
Ladd puts a split log in the wood stove.
They had driven away, and here they are.
His bike sits in the living room
with the folding lawn chairs.
So now what?
Brenda dishes up the noodles
and spoons on the sauce.
She has Ladd, now how to create a life?
She sets the Goodwill plates
on the Goodwill table
and they tuck into their Sunday meal.
As they chew, a cedar waxwing perches
in the blackberries, grabs a berry
and flies off.
“What kind of bird was that?” she asks.
She looks more closely at the berries,
“Maybe I should make some blackberry jam.”
He shifts, swallows, “Yeah.”
“Will you help me pick some?”
Mrs. Katie Hopewell leans over a bit
and rasps, “Dying is a boring business.”
Her voice almost gone.
“Store up lots of good memories
’cause that’s what can see you out.”
She’s an old friend of my mother’s.
Her son and I shot .22s together,
took sleds up to the top of Hendrickson’s hill
and came down like demons
ending up in a mess of wild roses
or a fence if we didn’t roll off.
“Mr. Hopewell was lucky
to pop off with a bad heart valve.”
She sighs and closes her eyes,
whispers, “Nothing matters,
all this God stuff, the fictions we imagine,
it’s just a story we tell ourselves.”
She spits some phlegm
and rolls on her side.
“If you can’t kill me then leave.
They give me enough dope
for that addict down the street
but I need more. I’m hanging
by a ridiculous thread.”
Wyatt speaks to the preacher
who stands just outside his cell
in the old city jail.
“That’s a crazy book you’re holding.
Killing in the name of the Lord,
the Lord’s hands dripping with blood.
So is that your Lord?”
Preacher: “That’s the old testament,
the raw state of Creation
before Jesus Christ came to set things right.”
Wyatt: “And how’d He do that?”
Preacher: “He was crucified, died for our sins,
and rose from the dead.”
Wyatt: “Sounds about the same to me.
Blood answering blood.”
Preacher: “We are locked in the mystery
of God’s love.”
Wyatt: “Sounds like we are locked
in some old nightmare.”
Preacher: “I’ll leave this bible with you.
Read Mathew, Mark, Luke and John,
see if it awakens in you the redeeming
that can be yours.”
Wyatt: “You can leave it.
I can roll a little tobacco in the pages.”
Preacher: “Read the words first.”
Wyatt: “Some of the stories
are okay but you put it all together
and you have a jumble.”
Preacher: “Was it in your growing up?”
Wyatt: “Oh yeah. I got the Word
and the belt. The madness of the Word
was driven into me like a nail.”
Preacher: “I’m sorry you suffered that way.”
Wyatt: “Nothing compared to the Lord,
so I was told.”
Preacher: “We have to end up at forgiveness
and love, to forgive those that harm us
and forgive ourselves for carrying harm
into the world.”
Wyatt: “Good luck with that.”
Preacher: “I will pray for you.”
Wyatt: “You do that.”
The preacher hands Wyatt the bible
and turns to go.
Wyatt: “I forgive you,
you crazy fuck.”
Preacher: “Give me your burden.
I’ll help you carry it.”
Wyatt: “We are animals,
hunting each other in the grass.”
Preacher: “We are God’s creatures
stumbling our way to Paradise.”
They stare through the bars.