Pass time

Pass time

I have seen my city pass
time inside a glass

Droplets drip down a bowl.

The smoke at my window.

Birds and leaves find holes
in the sky. Children are yearlings
and fowls.

And that hole in the pavement,
dropper done and needle thin.

I have seen my city pass
inside a glass.

-Jeremy Nathan Marks

Watching television in Washington

Watching television in Washington

Your perfect hair
unblemished pedigree
fit into flawless LED.

Old things are out of synch
with the spec and pic.

Everyone knows what is in
your contract.

You take me to school.
You remake the hoods.
You demolish remote words.

You come into my house.
Drink the wine
and sniff my dinner away.

Lesson from life: connect.
Line onto the new:
be a spear chucker, lapidary

Who owns
remakes a walk
foregoes talk

With a Black Rhino horn

Across perfect breasts.
Signs are
everywhere.

Your face
the room with
no more walls.

Give me the dialogue.

-Jeremy Nathan Marks

Brown leather

Brown leather

The television was on
and the lamp was off in the living room.
A cloud of smoke hung in the air
and Lucky could hear the clink of bottles
on the table.

Half full. Half empty.

In a couple of days Phil would be back to work:
he’d taken a week’s vacation coinciding
with Christmas but would go back
just before New Year’s.
One of his oddities, that;
avoiding the get drunk holiday at the head of the year
to work the night shift.

It was a point of pride,
Lucky thought. Phil would hold his backwoods
snail white church work ethic
against all of them as soon as they began
to buck about his late nights, his whip sharp belt, his temper.
And his odor.

All my life I’ve been working like a-
Shit, like a fuckin’ ni**er he’d slur at his son
just before trying to land
a drunken right slightly below the temple.
But Lucky had become too fast for old fat Phil and he knew
how his father hated that. Sometimes when Phil
got sloppy and mad and smelled
like a back alley Lucky would cut loose and taunt him until
the old man went to bed on the downstairs couch.

What frightened Lucky wasn’t the old man’s
temper. Not any more.
It was the ease with which he figured he could lick
him. On more than one occasion
he’d dreamed that he’d actually killed him for laying a hand
on his mother. Or his sister.
Once he had a dream so realistic he woke up convinced
that he’d decapitated his father with an old hatchet
the family kept in the back shed.

Even though that tool was practically ancient now,
rusted over and dull from disuse
he knew where Phil kept the whetstone (the basement).
Knowing that little detail had made the dream far worse
because all of that was in there,
in that night parade as he’d once called it
to a friend on the basketball team.

And he’d done it,
he knew, because he could actually hear Emmie screaming.
Heard the familiar, sickening thud of fist
on cheek bone. The all-too-real
smell of it all: everything doused
in bourbon.

Tonight Phil said nothing. Lucky walked out
the door guiltlessly because
there was no one else at home.
He felt right in his freshly laundered linen shirt and fitted
blue jeans. The cold air caught the crispness
of his cologne and his hair was the way he wanted it,
almost longish and pushing the bounds of what his coach allowed.

Whiting’s Woods was living up to its name.
The spruce and cedar, jack pine and fir stand halfway
between his house and the party was already
lily white. He felt a pocket of warmth
there, those trees soaking in and swallowing the wind that cut
into his jaw.
He’d wanted to wear his brown suede coat
but knew the snow would wreck it.
Suede was for the south
so when would he ever get to wear it.

Turning up Laura’s drive he could see figures
behind the front window curtains.
The window and the night were white.
There was faint music coming from inside
but he wasn’t listening hard.
He took a deep breath and heard the trees
stirring. Watched his breath disappear like the occasional
cigarettes he bummed.

His hands were just starting to feel
a pinch of cold
so he rubbed his gloved hands.
Brown leather, not black.

-Jeremy Nathan Marks

Charger

Charger

Darnell had two cars: the one in the garage
and the one on the driveway.
The work car and the reward car;
the wheels of the adjunct faculty member
and the gift he’d given himself
when he became part of
the tenured elite.

Work car was his dowdy 1960 Chevy Impala
which he bought used fresh
out of grad school: the rattling mud spattered white frame,
2-speed Powerglide transmission and flighty breaks.
But there were consolations.
It was a V8 coupe with dual exhaust
and 235 horsepower (in the beginning, anyway).
Marcus called it the “Great White Hunter”
because it couldn’t keep clean
and joked that when his father drove it down South Side streets
little kids ran into their bungalows thinking the car
was some kind of terrestrial slave ship.

Reward car, on the other hand, was what Marcus had been eyeing
and which Darnell seldom drove:
a 1970 Dodge Charger, second generation painted black
with a 440 cubic inch 7.2 liter engine and four speed manual transmission
that roared like a troop transport aircraft. Marcus wondered
what it would sound like if backfired
and joked that when it did people would look
for the grassy knoll. But Darnell wouldn’t play games with the machinery
and no matter how much his son
cajoled him he treated the car in velvet gloves.

Marcus had been pleading with his dad
to let him drive the car to Laura’s. I’ll polish the chrome bumper
for you. I’ll wipe down the dash and vacuum the seats
and hand wash the floor mats!
but Darnell said no and then Clarisse stepped in
and said You’ve got to be thinking about appearances, Marcus.
Have you even seen a car like that-
What, you mean in this town? And she nodded
and Marcus said, Ma, that’s the point.

Child, your father told you no
so be glad you’ve got a car at all since you weren’t the one
who did the buying or the paying.
Marcus shook his head and then with a wide grin
said You can’t even drive so why am I arguing
with you?
She flicked the dish towel at him
Get of this kitchen. I’m not feeding you a thing.
You can eat at the party.

Lou came downstairs and caught Marcus in the hall.
No dice, bro. Dad ain’t letting us take
the good car.
Lou shook his head slightly but wondered aloud
why his brother even bothered asking.
Man, you’ve got to push back a little, bro.
You the one acting like the oldest child, Louis.
You think dad is made of stone?
You’ve got to play up the fact that every time he looks at us
his big old heart keeps getting bigger and bigger.
Marcus held out his hand palm up: I’ve got them eating out of this.
Eating. While you’re the one acting good and clean.
Who’s supposed to be the smart one
in this family-

Darnell went out to start the Impala
letting the engine warm for a few minutes.
The snow was starting and every flake stuck to the solid brown
of the yard.
He turned on the radio trying to catch the forecast
but when a news report about Vietnam came on he quickly
shut it off.

So it’s snowing. It’s December. It’s cold.
If it gets to be too much they can just wait it out over there.
Darnell knew Claudette just well enough
from work. That French Canadian hospitality,
he thought. She’d keep everyone
warm and safe if it got to be too much outside.

As Marcus and Lou walked out the front door
Darnell opened the driver’s door
for his son who said I don’t have any cash
on me if you’re looking for a tip.
Darnell went to put his hand on top of Marcus’s head
to steal his tuque but his son was too quick.
Float like a butterfly, baby
he chided.

Lou watched it all closely.
He would have liked to show up in the Charger
but it was no big deal either way.
The night was dark, that car was black
and no one at the house would even notice what vehicle
they arrived in. Marcus knew that too
but it didn’t matter. It was a matter of principle to match his black
turtle neck, leather jacket and khakis
to his ride.

In the car he lit a flavored Beedi
and said Smoke this. It’ll set your mind right first.
Lou glanced at the soiled looking red stick
and said This didn’t come from Harlem, did it?
No, sir. Well, yeah maybe. But-
Marcus patted the breast of his coat.
I’ve got some Harlem tricks in my pocket
for later. Sensing the worry in his brother’s face
he tried reassuring him. It ain’t serious stuff.
Just some cut loose and feel smokes.

Watching the tame quiet of the whitening streets pass
his window Lou wondered where exactly
American higher education had
brought his family.

-Jeremy Nathan Marks