Michael Mark is a hospice volunteer and long distance walker. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Gargoyle Magazine, Paterson Literary Review, Poet Lore, Rattle, Spillway, The Sow’s Ear, Sugar House Review, Tar River Poetry, The Galway Review and other nice places. His poetry has been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes and the 2015 Best of the Net.
The Love of Things
When the coffeemaker starts brewing on its own, allowing you to float
six more puffy cloud minutes above
reality’s cold floor so you get two perfect cups and a stainless smile
to put you in the best possible mind to enjoy life – plus you’ll get to work
on time – why bother with poetry?
What words, regardless of profundity and music, could ever be
so compassionate? I challenge the Greats – their sestinas, ghazals –
bring on Rumi’s joy! –
to go against any modern household appliance; dishwasher, blender,
popcorn popper. The Buddha said all is suffering, but that was before
the toaster could transform plastic wrapped pre-sliced mush into evenly tanned,
crusty squares of Nirvana.
May he return to know such satisfaction soon!
Let’s conduct a poll of the world’s suburban homeowners, struggling
to fulfill their country’s psychotic dreams,
and pit their favorite Shakespearean sonnet against the electric garage door opener –
what do you figure the Vegas odds would be?
And by the way, this outcome would prove itself true with the most faithful
poem lover – a bent Professor Emeritus who’d denied her pulsing youth, the howls
of drunken parties, riding atop muscled frat boys for heady deconstruction
of epics – ask her if she’d part with her delicate couplets
that unfold inarticulable knowing or the electric blanket that keeps her toesies cozy?
When a sore finger’s tip can hover over the LED icon on the fridge, releasing
a miniature avalanche of crushed ice into a glass cleaned and wiped
spotless by the dishwasher, what need for metaphor?
We call them “things” as though they are a caste below, setting them back
in the dark cupboard of our minds, yet they are as much who we are as air, or a mannerism inherited from a great grandfather who fought the Czar’s Cossacks
so that today it’s possible for us to enjoy a 97 degree Sunday
from inside our air-conditioned den, sipping lemonade squeezed fresh by our Omega®
Masticating Juicer with five adjustable settings
that also makes natural nut butters, baby food, and, by touching its own off button,
a clean, spacious silence by which we can reflect
on true love, the clumsy ways of the humans and the familiar gleam of the unimaginable.
How they leave
Following the faintest of kisses.
Just before light, carrying a cardboard box.
Rarely ever behind a slammed door.
So soon after another has gone.
But most leave for eternity
without them or anyone realizing.
So you can understand, when you say, “I forgot the bread,”
and you get in the car, leaving the oven on
to get to 350, sure, absolutely certain, of being back “in a few,”
that I fall into despair
and wonder if it’s worth it – the bread,
couldn’t we do without it? And
will they ever fix that blinking traffic light?
It should stay solid so all are clear
on when to go
and when to wait for the others to. Where
is our Will and how do you work the DVR?
Have I said everything I need? Have I heard even a piece of
what you said to me all of these years?
Can we go back a few decades to go over it all again?
And the car – I noticed a sound; you did, too, but we
decided, who needs a perfectly smooth running engine?
What in life is smooth?
Except your palm sliding my eyes closed,
moving over my forehead in never-ending circles,
sometimes tiny figure-eights, the shape of infinity.
There is no such a thing as a half-hearted kiss.
It is never only minutes.
It is everything we are left with.
Nice to save the world
She knows she is going to die.
So she is nice. It is a way
of holding on.
I am a philosopher she says,
and way over her head,
then bends to kiss my bald spot.
No one is certain about ________
(one can insert anything
they like there).
When she holds a hand, writes a note,
sweetens her voice so it’s birds chirping,
it’s to lift the listener
from the ground she sees as dirty.
She claims she doesn’t know what I’m
going on about. “It just makes people more
okay with what is hard
to be okay with.” She is trying to keep
everything in its place through lavenders
and mint greens and well timed nods.
Me: It’s the nature of all things to be in chaos.
To fight it is to create more disturbance.
She: That’s no reason we can’t be pleasant.
Before long there’s a call. When a puppy is missing
she bakes cupcakes for the sad children.
For parents of soldiers, a cobbler.
In her sleep, she sometimes dreams
of eating the whole cookie.
She worries God knows this.
So I take her hand.
Apology to a flower
One inch from beheading two crumpled dead roses
and another, hanging on the same branch, just about
gone, a bee paying no attention buzzes dangerously
close to my shears into the sagging grey cup of the near
Instantly its buzz grows louder, joyous,
loving her, wildly sucking the last, clearly most delicious
droplets of her nectar, showing me that I was the one
not paying attention.
I wait for the completion of the rapture to offer apologies
to the flower, a thank you to the drunken bee, the dark of my
pocket to the shears, and to my eyes the promise of never not
From Avignon to Chalon, in staterooms looking out
from their verandas at the mustard colored barn wading
in lavender tides, they ask one another. Up the stairs
in Cezanne’s atelier, an arm’s reach from his cane,
they ask and ask again with moon eyes as the white-
gloved waiter announces the chateaubriand carved
from the region’s creamy skinned cows slow cooked
for sixteen hours in vegetables on-boarded from Vienne.
“Are you happy?” they are asking in Burgundy, in English,
in German, with their eyes, raising a glass of Beaujolais,
barely a tremble, they ask taking the hand of their loves,
kissing a chalky cheek, pleading, totaling the costs, the past
due apologies, the disputed promises, cathedral-cold
decades of stubbornness. With frail hearts, they ask, buoyed
by hope on the Aquavit deck, under low bridges, reflecting
on something floating by too quickly to grasp.