Florida Poems

I grew up in Florida and know the state has many layers. It’s a complex place with a long history, going back to ancient indigenous civilizations and early Spanish explorers in search of treasure and the Fountain of Youth.

Florida gets a bad rap in the media and recent events haven’t helped dispel the reputation of the state as a place where people do crazy things. When I was 12, I began to write about it. What evolved was a long poem, “The Sailor Circus,” named for the Sarasota high school afterschool circus program (which still exists). In my 20s, an agent encouraged me to write a novel based on the poem, but she later decided not to take it on. For many years both the poem and novel languished among my papers and computer files. A few years ago I used much of it in a novella, Covenant: Growing up in Florida’s Lost Paradise. These past few weeks I added in more of the original words, adapting them when needed to fit the narrative. And then, I took parts of it and made this poem. I’m offering it to give people a different perspective on the great state, the elusive and always transforming, place called Florida.

Florida

Visions of Atlantis.
The trading ships of the world come into harbor,
bringing their gift, their legacy.
Sailing, circling, orbiting, we ride the tides,
before we merge with the fold and mantle of sea and sky, 
will we circle around to the other side,
     will we come back alive?
The resort town lies weblike on Florida’s Gulf Coast,
banyan roots in backland glades,
points of anchorage, where gravity takes hold,
rolls the city up each night like a window-shade.
Each morning beneath a peg-leg, pirate's sun,
the land unfurls, surfaces beneath the surface of the sky.
Mirages and miracles: buildings, beaches, marinas, 
     alligator farms, the circus. 

White pelicans mirror the clouds, 
moonflowers glow, passion vine 
and coral bells flourish, herons nest,
and a mockingbird sings of paradise. 
Ghost towns in morning glory and dust, 
carnivals and suburban malls in the marshes.
On the southern Gulf Coast, burial grounds
     of forgotten civilizations.

Echoes of Atlantis. 
Lost worlds, new worlds spiral, drop,
      rise and soar in a divine glare.

Gulf Coast’s angels’ wings and rare Juno shells,
a sea of dreams, with all things sailing
we navigate by the sun and moon,
flowing into ports of call, 
sailing with grief and ecstasy,
     the circuitous circus.

The trading ships of the world come into harbor,
bringing their gift, their legacy—
the heavy vessels of the past empty their holds
and are refilled, flowing to the future with a purpose—
we carry precious cargo: hope, love.
Swinging across the globe, in tumult and calm,
we circle with the joy of fulfillment in time,
creating designs so potent
     they shape eternity.

Copyright 1974-revised 2022 by Mary Clark

The song, “A Salty Piece of Land,” by Jimmy Buffet, who pioneered Caribbean Rock’n’Roll in Key West, Florida, communicates the allure of a place, the sense of freedom, on the boundless sea.

Mary Clark’s fiction and poetry, all set in Florida:

Children of Light, poetry novel, Ten Penny Players/Bard Press

Covenant, Growing Up in Florida’s Lost Paradise (kindle only)

The Horizon Seekers, Amazon/Kindle

Racing The Sun, The Horizon Seekers Series Volume 2, Amazon/Kindle and Smashwords

My 4 Kindle Books #Holiday Sale

Four of my Kindle books on Amazon are 99 cents from today until midnight December 27th: two novels, a novella, and an illustrated epic poem.

The Horizon Seekers

A woman who lives both in the future as well as the present, Leila Payson strives to realize her visions. As a Miami high school teacher, she hopes that when her students fly, they’ll see beyond the horizon to where imagination and courage can take them. In her own life, she is haunted by early trauma, a failed romance, and a more recent loss. She doesn’t dwell on the past, though she learns from it, and instead challenges herself to be a better human being. Early in her teaching career, she goes to South Africa for a year, where she meets Baruti, the therapist who works with people with disabilities. When she returns, she puts what she’s learned to use. Raoul, a student, is losing his hearing and asks for her support. This begins the next step of her journey. All the while an attractive man with a book keeps appearing at her favorite places.

Excerpt:

As Leila drives to school, she is in a world of shining buildings. Doors are at ground level or have moveable ramps. She looks at the open space, trees, and people on foot or sitting in compact pods that pass quietly. The most visible part are the people. Calm, smiling, in apparent good health, they move through a landscape designed to accommodate the natural beauty around them.

Where is this? she wonders. What has happened? A couple walk on what appears to be a continually moving mini-magical carpet. Next to them, a child rides, a child with dark glasses. Blind?

Leila presses a button, and when a portal opens, she realizes she knew that would happen. The couple pause, hovering on their carpet, which is malleable enough to form fit their feet.

“Where is this?”

‘The vine community.”

“What city?”

“Miami.”

“And um, I know this sounds odd, but what year is it?”

“We don’t think in years anymore. It’s the fourth quadrant. But if you want you can convert that to November 2084.”

“And your daughter, is she blind?”

“Yes.”

“I thought that could be engineered out.”

“We chose not to.”

When Leila leaves the pod in a recharging slip, she walks to the school, and notices the building has changed. Gone is the brick and concrete and prison-like windows. It looks like wood and glass in artistic arrangement, a peaked roof on one section holding solar panels.

She tells herself it’s a vision. A look at an alternative life, at the future. It’s not real. Not yet anyway. To test this hypothesis, she touches a glass window. It feels hard, cool.

Walking into the school, the hallways revert to 2015. She shakes her head in disbelief. Am I losing my mind?

No, she decides. If I’m able to envision this, it might exist. Part of me is already living there.

Racing The Sun

In Book 2 of The Horizon Seekers Series, Leila Payson’s adventures in the present and the future continue as she handles with humor and the right mix of patience and impatience a new man in her life, an eclectic crew of friends, and a possible career change. She and her bf Caroline discuss aliens, panspermia, and artificial intelligence. She is surprised by a DNA match and changes in her family. Leila works on her new disability group, envisions playgrounds of the future, and aids Doug, a young man who is designing next gen wheelchairs. Haunted by a terrible memory, she hears a familiar voice in a crowd but can’t locate the man who’s spoken. Are some things simply never resolved? In that vein, her friend Dov travels to Cuba to see his lover, only to be rebuffed. But the others in the group are inspired to work on that; will they succeed? Another friend’s father is injured in a car accident. His adjustment to life as a disabled person intersects with Leila and Doug’s endeavors. At her school, Leila organizes a big tent meeting to discuss complaints in response to the rumors of a renegade guidance counselor. Meanwhile, Leila enlists the erstwhile Maria to help investigate the guidance counselor’s mysterious sister. Returning for a short visit to South Africa, she reunites with her mentor, the disability advocate Baruti. And finally, driving across SA to see the native flamingos, she discovers what Doug meant when he said he was “racing the sun.”

Covenant

Four children discover their Florida paradise has many layers. They become friends in changing times, which see the advent of the Civil Rights movement and rock’n’roll. Below the surface in their family lives, they find heights of hope and dreams, and dark secrets and nightmares. And they form a covenant which is challenged unexpectedly as they reach the threshold of freedom.

From the Prologue: Echoes of Atlantis. Old worlds bloom anew, spiral, drop, rise and soar, in a divine glare. Harsh angles appear in our lives, surfaces, beneath the surface of the sky: buildings, beaches, ranch houses in the pine forest and sand, alligator farms, the circus. Mirages and miracles, stringent salt and pungent seaweed, ghost towns in blue-eyed grass and dust, piano notes played by the flowering orange setting sun, we breathe the fresh bouquet of the lemon haze, emerge to the sweet melodies of dawn. And when, beneath a bright spotlight moon, the ships ride the midnight tide—sailing, circling, in concert with the fold and mantle of sea and sky, will we come back alive? Will we circle around and make it to the other side?

Children of Light

Dia, a young girl who lives on an island with her mother, discovers a boy who says his name is La-ha-ta, living in the wild. She brings him home. A kindly neighbor, Miss Pacer, befriends them. The Old Man of the Island fascinates and sometimes advises the children. La-ha-ta is placed in a group home. He escapes with Dia’s help, to be recaptured later and held in a detention center. He escapes and after a journey through wild Florida finds refuge in a small isolated community near the Everglades. Over the years, the children’s bond deepens. They seek relationships that will not compromise the integrity of others or themselves. One man hunts La-ha-ta, hoping to study him. Another boy, Eric, joins them, but must follow his own path. When Dia and La-ha-ta are captured, it seems all is lost. If they escape, if they survive, what will their relationship be, and will one or both return, and to what degree, to society?

Will we learn to live in society which allows each of us to have a personal recognition of reality and also a shared consciousness that accepts diversity and even conflict without physical violence, brainwashing or bullying, and exploitation? The active presence of those who are compassionate and reflective is essential. One character represents the calm values of Jesus, another is the initiator of the good, another the conflicted soul, another is flawed with hard-earned wisdom, and another the constant, the “charming gardener.”

Mary Clark has brought us an achingly beautiful chain of poems that both watch and listen: the sun, the sea, the darkness, the light, the passing of time—and the people who live among them. — The Reverend Barbara Cawthorne Crafton

The Horizon Seekers

The Horizon Seekers by Mary Clark

In my new book, The Horizon Seekers, time travel and romance play like light in the story, or so I hope. 🙂

Leila Payson moves from the present to the future and tries to make her visions real. She teaches high school, but she is more than her job and her role as dutiful daughter, she is a kind of pioneer. She hopes that when her students fly, they’ll see beyond the horizon to where imagination and courage can take them.

Meanwhile, mystery follows Leila. She is haunted by early trauma, but is it memory or a dream? She confides only to her funky, no-nonsense best friend, Caroline.

One of Leila’s students learns he is losing his hearing. She rethinks her life and occupation, remodels it, bringing in her past experiences, her future realizations, and her friends. Those friends veer from fun-loving to serious as they move through the seams of the modern world, seeking new arrangements. Baruti, the therapist who works with people with disabilities, whom Leila met in South Africa years before, is a constant presence. And an attractive man with a book keeps appearing at her favorite places. The journey begins, and the horizon always beckons.

Mystery Mondays: Mary Clark on Exploring Family Dynamics

KRISTINA STANLEY

This week on Mystery Mondays, author Mary Clark is here to talk about her laster novel, Racing The Sun.

Over to Mary…

Exploring Family Dynamics

by Mary Clark

My latest book, Racing The Sun, is interwoven with surprises, some gently delivered, others more brutal. In several cases, accidents change lives. They also bring together people who wouldn’t have otherwise met. The main character, Leila Payson, a Miami high school teacher, finds that occupation not precarious enough; she moves through the world stirring things up, but not with careless force, but instead at a thoughtful pace. But the world has its surprises for her, too. And these come from close to home.

Her father has been looking into his family history at the suggestion of a life coach (who may be more than that). He shows Leila his DNA results and urges her to sign up on the same genealogy site…

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Readers Favorite Review

Reviewed by Vernita Naylor for Readers’ Favorite

Life doesn’t always turn out the way that we planned, but it does prepare us for each new adventure. In Miami Morning: A Leila Payson Novel [revised and reissued with new title: The Horizon Seekers, 2021] by Mary Clark, Leila Payson is also known as “Miss Pacer,” which her friends fondly called her because she was always on the go. Leila later became known by the name Miss Pacer as well by her students. Leila was a Social Studies teacher. Leila loved the essence of her life, but one day she decided that she wanted to make a difference in life. The difference that Leila decided to add was a stint in an NGO in South Africa in the Health and Education industry. Little did Leila know that her life would change forever. Her time in the NGO will set the stage for how Leila will live the rest of her life. What Leila will learn during this stint  be the catalyst that enables her to help someone in the most profound way.

Leila’s interaction with characters Skye, Dov, Ron, Raoul, Maria and the mysterious man with the book became a part of her development. Each of these characters played a big part in helping Leila to become this vessel to provide comfort and guidance to someone who would need her in the most unusual way. I enjoyed how Miami Morning: A Leila Payson Novel by Mary Clark was developed because it displays how the ebb and flow in one phase of our lives helps us to walk through and navigate another part of our lives. All parts of our lives and pathways are not only interchanging, but intermingle to help strengthen our being, character, and our self-discovery.

Author Mary Clark, Interview

Marylee MacDonald, a gifted writer, in an interview with me for her blog, asked some challenging and insightful questions. Read the interview at maryleemacdonaldauthor.com

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The Shared Universe

shared-universe-2

On the well-worn path through the dunes, she heard the surf’s blended cacophony of lives past and present. Crossing the beach, she walked on hard-packed sand below the tide line. Gulls wheeled above, with sharp cries. A fiddler crab with one huge claw held aloft cantered toward her, skirting a patch of mangroves. A fine mist rose along the shoreline which seemed to bend into infinity.

The waves going out gave her a pull, a beckoning, and she took off her shoes. She watched small creatures scurry toward the rippling water and dig into wet sand the color of antique ivory, feeding on nutrients stirred up by tidal action. Like the subconscious feeding on the most interesting bits and pieces of our everyday lives, she thought, and working them into a private mythology, a mythology that stays beneath the surface, and is seldom if ever shared with anyone else. And yet it feeds into everything we do, into the shared universe.

© Mary Clark 2014

5 Star Review by Diane M. Denton

A Beautifully Written Journey of Growth and Faith, Review by Diane M. Denton

[This book has been revised and re-issued as The Horizon Seekers.]

As I read deeper into Mary Clark’s new novel, “Miami Morning,” I began to have the sense of following a pilgrimage, a journey of growth and faith. Out of the “levels to her life” as a teacher, community activist and friend, Leila emerges smart, cultured, amiable, supportive, and sometimes self-depreciating, a forty-something woman who engages her senses as she perceives her surroundings like an artist and doesn’t shy away from challenges. She has a need for place and purpose, whether she is in Miami teaching Social Studies, helping to beautify and maintain a playground, and making sure a bright student losing his hearing doesn’t fall by the wayside; or on a year’s sabbatical in South Africa as part of a team setting up clinics in small villages and working to diminish the marginalization of the disabled.

Almost serenely aware “of being on the threshold of accomplishment”, Leila’s restlessness doesn’t make her impatient or impulsive, just active, her movement not always surefooted but, like many a Miami morning, contentedly and expectantly taking her towards an “opening horizon”. Her steps are more proactive than reactive. For example, after breaking up with a lover, she is determined not to cling to “the anguish of love”; instead she accepts the teaching post in South Africa to pursue fulfillment as a teacher and public-spirited, evolving individual.

Certainly, Leila’s quest is for more insight and meaning on the “long journey of life”, but she also seeks a way towards trust—of others, but mainly of herself. She values her interactions with students, colleagues, and friends, is constant and accessible in her relationships, while being easily solitary and essentially private. She gives the novel its heart and spirit, and is someone I immediately engaged with and cared about.

Read full review on Amazon

Review of Miami Morning by Poet David Selzer

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading MIAMI MORNING. Its title raised expectations which were more than satisfied. The work is rich in characters, themes and incidents – and reads well throughout.

Mary Clark juggles and interweaves – sometimes only mixed metaphors will do! – an impressive range of plot lines very skilfully. So skilfully, in fact, that it seemed, for example, quite natural – rather than contrived – that the main protagonist, Leila, should meet up again with Mark, a probable soul mate, by chance on a Cuban beach!

I like Leila – her concerns and interests, her eclectic friendships, her alternating self-worth – and was engaged by her throughout. Mary Clark describes the wide range of relationships Leila has with a wide range people very convincingly.

life-is-an-adventure-1The author’s descriptions of people, places and weathers are very evocative. Just as I know I’d like Leila, I know I’d like Miami, for example – urban, urbane, and both disturbingly and reassuringly tropical. The accounts of the high school students brought back (good and bad) memories of working with adolescent learners very vividly.

Read the full review of Miami Morning on Amazon

Please visit David Selzer’s website. I’ve been following it for several years and have always been delighted by the range and depth of subjects taken on, and by the high quality of his writing. This is one of the poems I’ve most enjoyed: The Reclining Gardener.

New Review of Miami Morning

I’d like to share this in-depth review of my novel by Martha Char Love, the co-author of the fascinating book, What’s Behind Your Belly Button? A Psychological Perspective of the Intelligence of Human Nature and Gut Instinct

Deep and Thoughtful, Yet Easy To Read Story of The Challenges of a Miami School Teacher

Miami Morning is an excellently written novel that is a “must read” for anyone who has been involved in the educational system. It is a book that would be highly enjoyed by anyone who is or ever has been a teacher, student, or parent. Since I have been all three at one time or another, I truly loved reading this book and savored the experience by stretching it out a few weeks. The author, Mary Clark, has divided the book into very short chapters (usually only a couple of pages each), and so I was able to enjoy making this book part of my morning wake-up-to-the-world ritual by starting each day with a relaxing read of a couple of chapters, along with a cup of coffee.

The main character is Leila Payson, a Social Studies teacher in Miami, who goes to South Africa to teach and learns the importance of listening to the people with physical challenges that she served as though they were “equal citizens” of the community rather than “her students” or “disabled.” When she brings this lesson of compassionate perspective back to Miami and applies it in her teaching there, she is able to help resolve a number of challenges that students share with her, including those who are struggling with problems like drug addiction and life issues like disabilities including hearing impairment. As she weaves through these challenges with her students, the reader is privy to both her inner philosophical dialogues and profound communications with students and colleagues. I thought that the highlight of the book was in the deep questions brought up concerning the importance of a strong community for a person facing hearing impairment. She makes a psychologically powerful case that no one overcomes adversity without help from others.

Read the full review