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

Racing The Sun, A Novel

Racing The Sun Cover

Leila and her friends are back with more adventures in Racing The Sun, a sequel to The Horizon Seekers. Leila must decide whether to continue as a high school teacher, or quit her job to run a new group that brings together people of varying abilities. She meets Doug, a paraplegic and former student, who wants to design and build better wheelchairs. Her relationship with Mark, the attractive “man with a book” is challenged by another love, and she discovers her mother and father both have secret lives. Leila goes head-to-head with Mrs. Grisjun, the combative guidance counselor, who thrives in a post-truth world. And what do those mysterious stones in the local park mean? 

Dov, the gay event planner from South Beach, and Maria, the female Don Quixote, are back, along with Raoul, Leila’s former hearing-impaired student. There’s lunch with Caroline, her oldest friend, who always speaks her mind. Cran Birdsall, father of Leila’s friend Charles, and husband of the erstwhile Berry, loves his vintage racing cars. But after an accident, his life takes a different course.

All the while, Leila knows she must slow down to admire the flamingos. But life now has a fast pace. Will she be able to take the wheel to control the speed and direction of her work, love, and life?

Racing The Sun is available on Amazon and Smashwords

Racing The Sun on Amazon                                   Racing The Sun on Smashwords

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Pre-Order Racing The Sun

Mary eBook Cover Top Part

The Kindle and Smashwords editions of Racing The Sun are now available for pre-order! This short novel is the sequel to Miami Morning, and continues the story of many of the series’ characters. It’s a book that’s both light and serious, trying to make sense, and have some fun while doing it, of contemporary life.

The ebook is $2.99 and the paperback (available on Amazon soon) will be $12.95. 

The print and ebook editions were beautifully formatted by Jo Robinson and the covers equally well done by Chris Graham of The Story Reading Ape. Thank you both!

Smorgasbord Autumn Reading – Miami Morning – A Leila Payson Novel by Mary Clark

Miami Morning: A Leila Payson Novel

cropped-cropped-miamibeach3.jpgLeila Payson, known to her students and friends as Miss Pacer, is always pushing the boundaries of her experience, to become a better teacher and human being. She enjoys her work as a high school Social Studies teacher, her adventures with her diverse friends, and her volunteer work at a local playground. But Leila is at a midpoint in her life.

When one of her students begins to lose his hearing, she immerses herself in learning about people with disabilities and the challenges they face. This takes her back to an earlier time when she spent a year teaching in South Africa. There she saw an occupational therapist at work, and met others working in the disability community. Now, years later, when the student asks for her help, she begins a pivotal journey.

Besides this, a mysterious man keeps appearing at her favorite places. Her friends keep her on her toes. And at Leila’s high school, a young guidance counselor sees Leila as a mentor, while the other counselor views her as a rival. Trouble is brewing in the paradise of South Miami. But are there new possibilities as well?

Publication date: Spring 2016. Publisher: All Things That Matter Press.

Covenant: When We Left Paradise

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The friendships of four children are tested by family dysfunction, relocation and the changes of the 1960s. Set in semi-rural, part-suburban Florida, this short novel takes the children through school integration, civil rights, and the explosion of rock’n’roll music. Secrets and betrayal lurk beneath the seemingly normal surface. Orchie and Red seek love and a meaningful life, Bobby escapes his abusive grandfather and learns the truth of his parents’ deaths, and Lucy goes in search of her tribal family near the Everglades after her father leaves the family. In the atmosphere of the Gulf Coast’s vacationland, the circus, and great swaths of wilderness, their journeys tell the story of an era but are also universal. 

Covenant, by Mary Clark, Kindle

Excerpts from Covenant:

She saw clearly when she left paradise. He left the garden, seeing the world for the first time.

It is 1960.

Elvis’ voice is an ellipse from every hamburger joint. In rural Florida, subdivisions and truck farms, migrant workers camps, quarries, parks, ranches, rodeos, and small villages dissect the sprawl of the land. The circuses—Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey, Clyde Beatty and the Cole Brothers—winter at the fairgrounds.

Children sit on their front lawns listening to transistor radios play soul and the blues, country, pop, and rock ‘n’ roll, words burning down in the sun, staying like liquid metal in their brains. Blue-jean babies, leather-jacket ladies, flying beyond their parents’ call.

Fishermen found Larson’s boat drifting on an estuary. The next morning, his body was found below an old boat ramp.

“He must have fallen, hit his head, gone overboard,” Earl said, “and his boat kept on going.”

Red and Orchie walked to Bobby’s house. He was standing at the end of his driveway, as if he had been waiting for them.

“The police came here and told me my dad was dead.” Bobby stuffed his hands in his jeans’ pockets. “I didn’t feel anything.” He hunched his shoulders. “But when they said I couldn’t live here anymore, I . . . I started to cry.”

Orchie put her arm around his shoulders.

In silence as they walked to the orange groves, Orchie imprinted on her memory the freckled nose and sprout of hair on the back of Bobby’s head, the too-small tee-shirt, the too-big blue jeans, and vowed never to forget.

A vision of the trading ships of the world coming into the harbor, bringing their gift, their legacy—sailing, sailing—the heavy vessels of the past empty their cargo and are refilled, flowing with a purpose, only to run empty across time and space to find that purpose again. Swinging across the globe and back, they circle quietly with the joy and ecstasy of fulfillment in time, until they sink into the fold and mantle of the sea, all the while creating a design so potent it shapes eternity.

Reviews:

That is a truly wonderful book Mary. I read it right through in one go and it held me spellbound. It’s like a glass of rich red wine.  You drink it slowly right to the end and then you say, Ah. – David Turnbull, writer, occupational coach

The story is soothing and stark, amusing and disquieting, individualistic and altruistic as it reflects through hours, days, months and years. Mary Clark’s writing is eloquent, even as she ‘speaks’ of poverty and violence, devastation and betrayal. It is word-rich with beautiful sensory descriptions that set the scenes – the woods, the swamps, the beaches, the small town – where the young people spend their time; a blend of raw reality and dreaminess that moves the narrative beyond the simple alliance of children to an agreement that requires them to look into their consciences and hearts. – Diane Denton, author

Plot, movement, characters, ambience, and metaphors. A series of scenes beautifully created and sewn together. Very satisfying. The complete picture will remain with you. – Sally young-eslinger, poet