Pop the actor out

Pop the actor out

The day arrives when
I put the trimmer down and let
the hoe rust if not actually rest in its corner.

The string of sunshine leads
flowers to part cups and crowns
and circles of air. Since I sat outside
all day, never absent in meditation nor transcendent
in prayer, I concentrated on where my concentration formerly
was not allowed to go: back into the beads of sweat, the respiration
of the skin, the sensation of scent sucking my body inside the body of the flower.

I was not fruitful by this departure
or when born aloft in the gullet of the bird
its feathers now my feathers our fingers and wings
joined by dander. They give form to the form of walk and flight.

As the bird bends low
to swallow a fish whole, spectre
plucked from the spectrum, I know
as it passes my lips that one day I will put
my trimmers down and allow the mouth to do what
it has often requested: forego a chew and in one swallow
begin the process of popping my actor out from the inside.

-Jeremy Nathan Marks

Hurt us with its vanity

Hurts us with its vanity

Claudette had packed them lunch
and to Emmie’s surprise she was handed
a paper bag and a thermos of soup from last night

She didn’t know what to say
apart from Thank you. It had not occurred to her that staying
over would lead Claudette to do something
like this, go to this length to provide for her
Emmie could almost admit to herself that Claudette’s obvious
love for her was embarrassing

She felt slightly ashamed
as she remembered something her mother once
told her about being young
that you don’t have to think about the structure of things when everything
is provided for you. Charlotte’s remark hadn’t meant much to her
then since she was twelve. Still, she remembered it

On the walk to school Laura did not give
any indication that her night had been perhaps the most
terrifying of her life
that the inspiration which had accelerated her heart
and buoyed her had been pulled out from beneath her feet
and she had this terrible sensation of abandonment
she now felt a mute form of terror

Forcing a smile she said I am looking forward
to the holidays, to our party tonight
do you think Lucky and Lou will show up
and Emmie, who didn’t want to talk about Lucky at all
surprised herself by saying
I hope they do because I want to forgive Lucky

Remembering that her friend had been gripped
by a despair of her own said I know, Em that he wants to be forgiven
he’s not really like the guys he spends his time around
he just sometimes feels like he has to be normal

Normal is depressing, Emmie said
But isn’t that what we want, Laura replied pulling the lapels
of her blue pea coat closer to her neck
Aren’t you cold today wearing that
Emmie gestured
I mean it’s actually a beautiful coat but I don’t think I could wear it
on a day this bitter even with your scarf

Laura didn’t say anything
she felt a slight ache in her stomach as she fingered
the alpaca wool she was using to cover
her mouth when she wasn’t talking
The cold feels good, Em
and she drew in a very deep breath so she could feel that particular winter
burn she had known since she was a kid
running home from primary school. It was the first time she’d felt winter as a possible
danger. She’d forgotten her gloves one January day and burned
her fingers with frost
she had come through the front door with tears in her eyes

Her father was there waiting
having come home early from work
and seeing her in a state swept her up into his arms
and asked her if she had forgotten her gloves and why was her face so red
she had cried and said I ran home and my lungs burn
daddy. It’s alright, he told her
I’ve made that mistake too. Winter is so beautiful isn’t it
so beautiful that it hurts us with its vanity

Laura was surprised this so clearly eleven years later
she recognized the timbre of her father’s
voice in her ears. She missed him now, again
he was one of the few topics that remained off limits with her mother
and it wasn’t clear who had made it so
she couldn’t remember if she’d said something to her mother
and her mother had turned away
or if had been the other way around

They got to school and Laura said
I think Lucky will come tonight if you make him
feel like he’s welcome
It’s your house Emmie said but knew what Laura meant
I’m going to find Lou before first period
maybe you can find Lucky now-

-Jeremy Nathan Marks

What this camera is about

What this camera is about

With a camera in my hand
I do not actually step outside
of myself even though this job
might take my life

I am a paid spectator and know
that bad luck works for someone’s good.
Often I document the game board with dice
provided by the house.

That is what this camera is about.

-Jeremy Nathan Marks

Girl peeling an orange

Girl peeling an orange

A barefoot girl curling her toes beneath the lemon tree
is paring the rind off an orange. She lets its skin fall among
the scattered leaves that emit a pungent scent when crushed.

She eats beneath a bright blue sky, a wind stirring the branches
overhead. Her hair, loosed from its pin, falls over her eyes, a loose
strand mingling with the pulp on her lips.

Leaning back against the trunk she watches trawlers bobbing in wait
where the light green shallows of the lagoon greet the sea’s blue canyon.
Tomorrow they will go out and haul up the deep. A hint of salt makes the
lemons grow and the orange taste so sweet.

-Jeremy Nathan Marks

Wreck my spontaneity

Wreck my spontaneity

Emmie found the smell of coffee
coming from Claudette’s kitchen to be
remarkably reviving

She thought at first that the sun was shining
for something felt like summer
there seemed a freshness in the house
Emmie would never have assumed she had caused

Claudette awoke early after getting to bed late
her enthusiasm was difficult to contain
when she saw the clock say four thirty she didn’t
despair that she had slept for barely three hours
there was a guest in the house
food to be prepared

Before beginning her preparations
she sat at the dining room table drinking a dark roast
she personally selected from a little French market
that imported their beans from Martinique
she had never been to the island but when she placed a croton
tree in the kitchen she began to feel that she would not
remain in this town forever

She sipped and was revived
thought about Aimé Césaire whose poetry she adored
then Frantz Fanon who frightened her a little
all while looking at her plant
and idly marveling at her own imagination
the links she could make, her penchant for work thoughts
at all hours

Emmie came down in a bathrobe her mother called
a housecoat and said Oh, everything smells like a restaurant
and Claudette said That is what’s intended
handing her guest a coffee mug and offering
You can stay in here with me or go and sit and enjoy that
in the dining room

Emmie lingered admitting
I feel so rested and we were up so late how do you figure
Claudette raised her mug and said
The wonders of good coffee is how and turned over the bacon
Laura won’t be brought down here by scent
so I think I might have to go wake her

Emmie took it upon herself to set the table
knowing as she did where all the plates and utensils
were kept. She admitted to herself that she wanted to please
Claudette who had obviously gone to some measure
of trouble here though of course
she would deny it

Claudette knocked and said Laura
I have le petit dejeuner for you and Emmie downstairs
whenever you are ready
I will be down in a moment, maman
she answered and Claudette could hear her closing
her closet doors then throwing the sheets over her bed

The morning outside was wild
Emmie had been right when she felt sunlight in her room
the wind was scattering clouds like a March day
and one moment the snow came down copiously then it was
clear and a deep blue appeared above the trees
bewildered birds came to the feeder at the kitchen window
some riding out a strong gust by clutching the perch
the little structure rocking fiercely back and forth

I am looking for the bluebird
Claudette told Emmie, pointing out the window
I put that up last winter and kept it all year hoping
but now it is mostly chickadees and sparrows
the man over at hardware told me to be more selective
about my seeds but I just don’t believe him

Emmie noticed a pair of cardinals
male and female on the branch of a maple tree
awaiting their turn
Sometimes feeders remind me of an airport
she remarked and Claudette nodded then noticed the red birds
Cardinals, she smiled
I don’t know why but I think that this is good luck
I want to call him the “poinsettia bird” because as you can see
she gestured at her croton
I have plants on the mind in this dead time of winter

Laura entered the kitchen and said
Is that le café Martinique you like so much, maman
she turned to Emmie
You know she only brings it out on special occasions
this is no mere breakfast brew you understand
and bacon! Laura turned to her mother in mock shock
First you give me a menorah and then you
make bacon like I am some Marxist juif
it is all so hard to keep up with

Then none for you since you’ve turned kosher
Claudette winked at Emmie
more then for us. And fille, she looked her daughter over
why are you dressed already and we are still
in our night clothes
you are in a hurry on the last day before the holidays
this does not make sense

No questions, maman
or you will wreck my spontaneity.

-Jeremy Nathan Marks

Comprehensible pain

Comprehensible pain

Laura lay in bed amidst total silence
for a long time she held her breath until she could not
then took a quick, shallow gasp of air
and held it again

She couldn’t bring herself to move her limbs
at all. Every last acre of her energy had been harvested
by that one burst of adrenaline when she had leapt
up and out into the empty air

She couldn’t recall if she had shouted or spoken
or even whispered anything at all to that phantom
now the exhaustion was overwhelming
it dragged down her memory and induced a kind of amnesia
but still she knew she was afraid, consumed by a fear
paralyzing everything

One moment she was cold and began to shiver
the next a hot flash of humiliation
crawled into her face and she went beet red
her eyes wet

The night sky slowly lightened
turned dun and looked old despite being the beginning
of something: was it a new day?
With the first light Laura felt her limbs unfreeze
her skin begin to thaw and she could roll onto her side
and breathe more comfortably

It must have been another hour
before she stood and felt nausea rocket up her throat
and out her mouth onto the floor
she stumbled to the bathroom, closed the door
and ran the water in the sink while retching violently

She could smell the lining of her own stomach
with every nasal intake of breath
her throat burning with bile she retched again and again
until she was empty then began to weep over a terrible cramping
that doubled her over

She stood up slowly and thought about the rouge
in her room –she would use it to cover up the green she saw
in her pallor. She turned on the shower and let the steam fill the room
then when leaning forward almost dizzily to accept the hot water
she stubbed her toe on the claw foot tub
a welcome distraction this
localized, comprehensible pain

Under the beat of her heated wash she began to relax but then
felt a widening ache spread up her back and into her shoulders along
a river of sore muscles, of twisted cords fastened together
by her every movement
this was not violent pain but something akin to sorrow
and Laura wondered where all of this physical umbrage, her body’s outrage
was coming from. Some part of her had been unduly harmed
transgressed
and now was setting its companions on edge.

-Jeremy Nathan Marks

Ha!

Ha!

Claudette was prone to snatching stray bits of melody
and tiny shards of lyric
sometimes they stayed with her for days
like the time she heard Coltrane’s version of
My Favorite Things
day after day it played on her mind so she bought
the record nearly driving her daughter crazy with its incessant play

Standing before the bathroom mirror she hummed
We’re so sorry, Uncle Albert
We’re so sorry if we’ve caused you any pain
while brushing her teeth
she gargled then smiled and felt content
Laura is happy and Emmie is here
The kettle’s on the boil and we’re so easily called away

Emmie was asleep in her room
beside the bath and Claudette poked her head
in the way she used to when Laura was very young
she wanted to be sure that everything looked alright
that she was breathing

For a moment she had to resist the urge
to check on her own daughter
but she knew that Laura fiercely valued her privacy
and since the light in her room was still on
it would be a mistake to look in

Instead she lit a candle beside her bed
and opened the window
waiting to see her breath form clouds of meaning
but before it did she was asleep

Laura remained awake for awhile
trying to resist an urge of her own: to walk over to the piano
and play ferociously
she picked up her bedside notebook instead
and jotted down thoughts in a flowing flourish suggesting
that her private feelings were melodies of their own
and the closer sleep approached those melodies became more baroque

She thought she saw
through drooping eyes a man standing in the hallway
with two brilliant beams of light emanating from his sockets
but she chalked this up to alcohol and exhaustion
and nodded off

It happened after three in the morning
she was stirred by a growing heat that began on
her eyelids. Feeling herself wakening
some instinct whispered Keep your eyes shut

The light grew in intensity and she could see two saucers
of red through the closed lidded dark
gradually red became everything and she ached to look
but felt springs of fear dampening her back, moistening the space
beneath her arms and trickling down her temples
to become tears

For a long while nothing else happened
the red light peaked and faded
but only just
her body accustomed itself to the heat
and she was not sure how long she had been lying
there when a mouth, cold and damp
suddenly covered her own

She had to resist her body’s urge to rise
her lips’ reflex to recoil
the kiss –which is what it was- was too cold
too uninviting
and yet oddly persistent
whosever mouth this was would not move
did not need to come up for air

Laura surprised herself by not feeling any urge to scream
there was a numbing peacefulness in this kiss
it seemed to be without passion
it was not formed of affection
nor was it meant to soothe
it was a disembodied kiss whose lips held hers so that she breathed
silently through her nostrils

Then when her back began to throb
and her neck to itch
her fingers starting to twitch she braced herself
for terror and rolled over
onto her stomach, turning her back on whatever
or whomever this was

She waited in fact to be struck
or gripped by the shoulders and rolled over

But nothing happened

How long she lay there
afraid to move, thinking perhaps the stranger
chalked her sudden motion up to sleep
she could not be sure
it(?) seemed content merely to watch her
perhaps checking for her breath

Laura’s face was pressed down into the mattress
her entire body waiting to be touched
she listened for sound, any sound at all
but heard only her pulse

Finally, when her face could take the hot darkness
no longer, when her cheeks became parched
and her lungs had to breathe cool air
she rolled over, opened her eyes and was prepared
to leap into the air
shouting Ha!

But there was no one there.

-Jeremy Nathan Marks