A C Clarke

We feature work by poet A C Clarke to mark National Poetry Day 2012.

Cover of 'A natural-curiosity'
'A natural curiosity'.
Cover design by Colin Baird.

A C Clarke is a prize-winning poet based in Glasgow. She is also a translator with experience of working with refugee poets and is an active member of Scottish PEN. Her published collections include:

  • 'Breathing each other in' (Blinking Eye Publishing, 2005)
  • 'Messages of change' (Oversteps Books, 2008)
  • 'Fr Meslier's confession' (Oversteps Books, 2012).

These two poems are taken from 'A natural curiosity', published by New Voices Press. The poems are inspired by the collections of the Museum of Anatomy at the University of Glasgow.

A C Clarke says: 'My interest in the collections stems from a fascination with the workings both of the human body and the human psyche. The specimens on display reveal to us the intricate nature of our humanity and at the same time raise disturbing questions. The poems that follow attempt to explore some of the tensions inherent in their difficult subject matter.'


The Anatomists

Their trophy cases line the walls
of the medical school. Imagine their patience
the deftness with which they'd ease a kidney
free of its moorings, scoop a brain out of its shell
under dull light in a fug of ether and coal-gas
their white coats bloodying like a butcher's.

And in the mounting such attention to detail!
See how they rolled back muscle-sleeves
from a flayed arm before digging to the bone,
assembled exact as Meccano
the twenty-seven bones of a filleted hand
syringed quicksilver through tissue-slivers

until they glowed, starbursts in formalin.
Even a fused foetus, toggled across
its opened chest with stitches no seamstress would own,
displayed for dramatic effect, each head tilted
openmouthed away from the lungs
which couldn't breathe for them both.

All this for a final answer. On the brink
these men could walk blithe among skulls,
bottle stillbirths, with the same cool zeal
their tutor preached, whose corpse (his last request)
his students carved — while noting with precision
the curious pathology of the heart.




Little turnip-face
hung in this jar like a jack o'lantern
you turn your botched eye
to the staring world.

There's something in the quirk
of your hobgoblin mouth
that seems to mock
yet might break into sobs
any moment.

Little changeling
you are so other
and so human.

They wouldn't show you to your mother.
I wish she could have held you,
stroked your auburn curls,
traced the whorls
of your delicate, perfect ears.



A 'Cyclops' is a medical term for a rare deformity in which a foetus is born with the eyes fused in the centre of the forehead.


National Poetry Day 2012


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