Poetry: Tim Cloward

Tim Cloward is a writer/educator who lives in Dallas, Texas. He holds a Ph.D. in Aesthetic Studies from the University of Texas at Dallas. The founder of the poetry/performance troupe Dancing Tongue, he has also worked with Poetry Circus and Question Authority, both acclaimed multi-disciplinary performance ensembles. His work has been seen in a number of publications and he, along with Patty Turner and David Davis, published the influential chapbook Three Dallas Poets in 1986. A prominent arts organizer, he is the former board chair of the North Texas Literary organization, WordSpace. He teaches Theory of Knowledge classes at Uplift Atlas Academy, where he is helping establish an International Baccalaureate program for underserved urban students. The first volume of his The City That Killed the President: A Cultural History of Dallas and the Assassination will be published by Deep Vellum Press in the fall of 2022.

Icarus at the Airport


Sitting in the labyrinth
of the Terminal
waiting word from the tower
the announcer’s voice
a thread tied to an ant
winding through the chambers
of the nautilus.

I put the shell to my ear
like a map of the sea, static
a wave swelling in my auricle
pulling back Ariedne’s string.

I used to travel light
–just wing it–
but the luggage now. . .
the weight upon my shoulders
would pull you down, the maw
of the River Meander.

If I could just let it all go—
Dad saying: “Not too high.
Not too low. Moderation.”
–I know! 

     I’m not still wet
behind the ears. . .
The destination—
the place you left
becomes more
like home
the farther
you go.


At airports you’re anonymous
In the air you forget
you’re a myth—the ticket
for everyone who wants to drift
an excuse for anyone
to take flight.

A stiff drink, a window seat
(2B or not 2B?)
If it could be that simple. . . 

I was a lot of things before
I was the boy with feathers
maybe I wasn’t Theseus
I won’t return home a hero
I was raised in an artificer’s den
—dad was always making things—
& I made my fifteen minute flight.

Now I’m barely enough to make a wave
people don’t recognize me
its like I dropped into the sea
–its like you can’t be
anything else
if you fall


I’m not the only one
who didn’t listen.

The stewardess motions the safety measures
& everybody reads their magazines.
there’s even an in-flight movie—
everybody craves some kind of escape
Its not just me. . .

That’s why now I’m always flying
standby.  I save a little
let others fly first.  It’s OK
unless I get stuck somewhere
they want to make a lesson of me:
Birds of a feather, Walk
with the ducks, you start
to waddle, A Bird
in the Hand. All that….

They say: If it wasn’t for wings
who would have known
Icarus was a fool?
Maybe I was a Creten, but
I did not want to be exemplary.
I just wanted to be me.


Who was it who was so bull-headed?
Looking back, what did anyone
else sacrifice?

The river flows back to its source. . .
& I’m content now to sit
let someone else do the work:
face forward, the back
of someone’s head, a voice
from behind, a bump
I’ll take a backseat
I don’t want to make a flap
–create an incident.

That’s not why I fly anymore
I’m through with all that
I look forward to saying
the wings are buried
in some other homeland
called Icarus.

The ants exit the final chamber
of the nautilus, at the waiting deck
no one notices when I ask dad
if I can come back—my story
just a handful of feathers.

(An accelerated sestina for the year 1966)

It was heaven to us, the ecstatic flower of the atom bomb–
the static fizzing like pollen, the gestating seed of Godzilla.
On our Saturdays as children the horizon was as flat as the TV screen
and the remains of all the ancestors could be kept in a shoebox.

Of course, the mind of children horns everything into the shoebox of the TV.
How could our ancestors have conceived the glowing white tubes of Godzilla,
that our horizons would be flat now from the atom bomb of bad movies,
that our memories would gestate ecstatic sequels beyond reckoning?

Those mornings we moaned when the horizon gestated actual suns,
threw shadows that smashed the houses like shoeboxes, like atom bombs.
Our ancestors exhorted us–with garbage bags and lawn mowers–out of ecstasy.
But there was Godzilla!  How could we leave the shoebox of our living rooms?

We saw, though, that time passes; Godzilla comes and goes.
We saw, still, the some plots gestating—the Greeks on Ecstasy!
We, the children who saw the power of the sun gestate in a shoebox,
saw the atom bomb replace heaven with the horizontal hold of the TV.

Today, the ecstatic offspring of Godzilla, our children
gestate like atom bombs, their horizon big as a shoebox.