Where the Hell is Ed Clark?
This morning I read a piece by Sylvia Plath that came up on the news feed – unfathomably deep and beautiful poetry from a truly tortured soul. I haven’t read enough of her work. It can be difficult. It’s the kind of writing that can unseat your day, but my mind didn’t dwell there – instead another thought came into my head – where the hell is Ed Clark? It surprised me.
The first time I met Ed was during a night of conversation and beer fueled inspiration at the Ship. I don’t remember the night or the details, but as a rule the first time Ed made an impression was when he would lean in close and say, “Can I give you a poem?” Not shy, not, ‘I want to see if I’m any good at this’, but with a healthy Irish confidence that he’s about to bring value to this table full of people and this evening by looking you in the eye, sitting back a little and while waving one hand around to accent words, recite from memory the lines he’d written late last night or mid-afternoon today. Always about Angels, always about veils and hearts, life and love. Lyrical and lovely. And you had to follow; you had to pay attention – he was very good. They were long – usually in the five minute range and they could go long enough so that when he reached the end I would be the only one still engaged. I suspect he was OK with that. Usually, no matter who or how many people were at the table – I was the only one who was ever asked – ‘Can I give you a poem?’
I know he worked on a factory line somewhere in Calgary, building electronic components. He was so bloody Irish – a shock of unkempt red hair, a long, gray woolen overcoat, scarf to his knees and frequently short of funds for the pints. I called him on the Irish poet facade once – he didn’t miss a step, agreed with me that it was convenient, and we both went on about our conversation and our friendship.
He accompanied me once up to the rooftop of Melrose bar overlooking 17th avenue to watch the crowds disperse after last call – was impressed by my commitment – you had to get the current pint out under your coat, hop up on a dumpster and jump to reach the lower rung on a fire escape – pull yourself up then reach back down to grip the beer by the bell at the top of the glass. Easier with someone to hold the glasses from below. We came up with the idea to paint the ‘Jesus is Lord’ sign on the Latter Day Saints building down the road to read ‘Jesus is Bored’, but never got around to that.
My girlfriend at the time once told me that she accepted an invitation from Ed to keep the party up at his place into the late hours and enjoyed the experience until things got weird and she decided to leave, Ed on all fours in his underwear nipping at her ankles on her way out the door. It didn’t deter my interest in his poetry or his presence. We got along fine before and after that – I saw no reason to hold it against him.
The only friend he ever brought to the bar was a little person – a sour individual that would get drunk and let everyone in listening range know he wasn’t long for the world and was going to take God to task – in a violent way as soon as he got the chance – for his size and his form.
Ed would sometimes disappear for a month or two and I thought once he was gone for good but it was summer and he eventually returned and explained that he’d found a great place to live outside under the stars on Vancouver Island – on some forested land overlooking the ocean – snug in a hole at the base of a cedar tree.
I have a Manila envelope of his work on a shelf – I think I know where it is – the cover page is a picture of an angel perched on a pedestal overlooking a crypt – and the whole thing is photocopied paper – run on a machine that didn’t do the job completely.
There’s a man that should be published – Ed Clark. I wonder where he is.