Qualia Literary & Art Journal


The solitary Spanish poet on west 133rd.  In his suit and bow tie, black hair smoothed back. Wide, child-like eyes staring into the camera. At the bottom of my soul, there’s an enormous desire to be very childlike. Alone in his dorm room writing, then shredding the pages. With each day that passes I have another doubt and another sadness. Lorca, constructing his own city. Poeta en Nueva York. The lyres and moans escaping from the small leaves, the talking caterpillars, the dancing fevers, the jungle of vomit. Sadness and the enigma of myself.

Mamaroneck, NY. 45 minutes north of west 133rd.  A freight train rumbling through town. The Flats.  Flat land prone to flooding, Central American immigrants, cockroaches, and slow-moving patrol cars.  I wandered through the stench of garbage and gasoline. Wandered past Glenn, Puerto Rican cocksucker who bartered blow jobs for cigarettes. Past the men sitting in a driveway, huddled around a table stacked with Coronas and Tecates. And wandered past the vegetable gardens sprouting from the concrete, the splintered sidewalks, the prowling cats, and the second-hand clothes store where my parents used to shop for back-to-school clothes. Ten bucks for all the shit you could jam into a black garbage bag.  Past the church parking lot where men in paint-stained pants and boots waited for cars doors to open wide and swallow them.  I turned a corner, stopped. A street sign scorched my eye.  Big block letters. BALDWIN STREET. Baldwin. I said the name a few times. Beale Street. No. Go Tell It on the Mountain. Yes.

Why didn’t the black boy, that church going queer, pack his bags and leave? Why’d he stick around, what was he afraid of? Maybe I was remembering it wrong. His shame, his fretting, his fear.  And the teacher trying to convince us that it was a great book.  Really it was. An important book. Very. By a black writer. Really.  But I couldn’t understand it. That sense of community.  Obligation to one’s people.  And the fear of embarrassing, shaming, or defying them. And in the end leaving them behind. Maybe I was remembering it wrong.

But the juvenilia suggest that he was painfully aware that he was not like others of his age.

Painfully aware. Summer camp. Lake Winaukee. Nine, ten years old. Pulling out my cock whenever I got hard, running around the bunk, devilish grin. Bunk mates shrieking, hiding under their sheets, poking their heads out, trying to catch a glimpse. Precocious cock, way too big for my body.

Maybe it was that Saturday, a few days later.  When my parents left me in the house alone, when I woke up and heard the rickety Volvo backing out of the driveway, then turning and lumbering down the street. I ran upstairs. Logged onto AOL, slipped into an adult chat room. One hand typing, the other on my dick.  Horny and hunting. No action in the coed rooms. Women not responding to my requests. Phone sex, naked photos.  So I clicked into one of the male for male rooms. “I have a fat cock.” “How big?” “REALLY big.” “Call me, here’s my number.” Nervous and hard. I dialed. He answered. Said he was thirty six. Asked me to describe my dick, asked if my parents were home. I closed my eyes, moaned. Cum splashed on my shirt, dribbled down my fingers. “How old are you?” His voice scratchy and deep. I didn’t answer. Quickly hung up, took of my shirt, and hurried into the shower.


About the Author
Clark Cooke was born in the Prospect Park section of Brooklyn. When he was five, his family relocated to the monochromatic suburbs of Westchester, NY. After flunking out of college and getting fired from his family’s business (Real Estate), he fled to Montreal where he worked odd jobs, learned French, and began writing. Since returning to the States, he has earned a B.A. in French from Hunter College and an MFA (Fiction) from the University of California, Riverside where he received the Chancellor’s Distinguished Fellowship. He was a 2011-2012 writing fellow at the SUNY Purchase Writers’ Center. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in PANKConnotation PressThe Westchester ReviewLes Amuses-BouchesThe Review Review, and Kweli Journal, among others.

Other works by Clark published in Qualia:
A Good Bet