Vanilla

Vanilla

Alright, y’all
Gather here. Gather. Gather.
Marcus stood in front of the stereo
raised his voice and made circles in the air
with his left hand.
He had put his leather jacket back on
and gone rummaging in it only to find a comb
in one of the pockets which he promptly
shoved into his hair.

Lou smirked and Claudette laughed
and he said again Alright, y’all
alright. Think about what Freddie used to say
before the cops came and took him
away. What Freddie said got ‘em dead and tonight
I want to do something
for the man.

He pulled a small plastic bag out of his pocket
and a book of matches and then to Lou:
Now Louis, now Louis, brother. Brother, brother
you’re gonna have a smoke with your
brother before he has to go off into the shit
like no man should.
And I don’t mean back to Chicago, bro-
Have a smoke with me. Then looking around the room:
You too, y’all.

Claudette made Laura blush
as she rushed right over forgetting herself
by letting Marcus place a full joint
into her pert open mouth.
Lou asked Is this for Fred, Marcus-
are you serious

Marcus set the matches down
on the table, pushing one wine glass aside
and pulled his zippo out again.
Looking up at Lou as he lit what dangled from Claudette’s
mouth he whispered
For Fred, brother, for real
then looked around the room to see who
was actually listening.

Laura turned quickly away
but then he saw Emmie pushing Lucky further
into a corner and shouted
Hey Vanilla! Vanille –yeah, you baby
Emmie turned toward him brushing
a strand of hair out of her face.
I’m asking who is listening to me right now.
He held up the bag. You want in on this?

To Lucky’s surprise, Emmie peeled herself
away and said Alright.
Alright! Marcus intoned, lifting his chin toward
the ceiling. Alright! Vanilla is down!
He nudged Lou in the ribs. Get your chick over there
interested, bro. He cocked his head at Laura.
Look at her. Have you ever seen one
needed this so bad?

Lou saw Laura standing in the doorway
of the kitchen, her back turned toward the room
and he knew better. No. No, she doesn’t
need this and I’m not sure I do either.
Marcus looked into his brother’s face for a moment
locking eyes with him.
He scowled first but then broke into a wide grin
You’re alright, Lou. You’re alright.
Give her time. Give yourself time and then
you see what happens!

Emmie took a joint and held it loose
between her index and ring fingers which made Marcus
laugh and as he lit it said
Now take it slow, girl. Remember that you are vanilla-
What does that mean, vanilla
Emmie asked
and Lucky, who had walked over said
It means your whiter than white,
you’re light and this stuff is something red and maybe
mean. Watch yourself.

Emmie eyed him.
How do you know that? She leaned her face into his
and said Where’d you learn to speak like that?
Lucky looked at Marcus who had a small
smile edging out the corners of his mouth and nodded
back at him. Lou told me about you
and he winked.

-Jeremy Nathan Marks

Letch

Letch

The party was moving in circles.
Cycles. Bicycle wheels with melodic spokes.
There was an urge to dance mingling
with each one of them.
It felt like a bodice breaking
tantalizing the women and the men.

Everyone knew that her sweat could slide
buttons out of lapels, turn the night
into a July jungle of inky darkness, roaring cicadas
and drums beaten by hand.

Laura heard the crickets and the locusts.
She thought the wine was a clear,
sweet trickle dripping from the breasts of Earth
that hikers stooped to taste
sliding packs off of backs and tents and bedrolls
onto damp earth.

She had only had one glass and a half
So she feared that her mother had lit something
in secret to cloud her senses,
making her perceive things not actually in the room.

Emmie felt it too
but not as some set of spectral objects
but as a letch inhabitant
who was moving her hands towards Lucky’s
concealment, a petard she wanted now
to pop.

And Lucky, who felt neither lusty nor coy
watched Emmie change inside her sweat. He could not
remember when he had last seen her do this
and the tap of pumping blood
at her temple, the flush in her cheeks kept her eyelids
half open, her lips pursed and her body
in pursuit. It was time to repeat an old ritual
make it new again.

The house felt like foreign territory
but familiar; it was a place he had seen in his sleep
once or twice, just enough
to remember it.
Emmie slid her hand inside the front of his slacks
with force and he pulled it back,
now surprised by her honest lust, wondering at
her former fierce disapproval of everything
at large in that room. He sensed her self-concealed
hypocrisy, how she might never forgive him
for letting her become that Emmie

He could not know that this was the one
she had already seen in the mirror
that afternoon.

Can you believe,
she whispered hot in his ear
that they are playing jungle music in here
and left a touch of saliva
on his lower lobe.
Do you know what these people are capable of?

She tried cornering him
by the back door, never taking her widening
crystalline eyes off of his face
or raising her right hand from its orbit
near his crotch.
He looked at her closely and said
What are you trying to-
But she raised her other hand -her left-
and cupped it over his mouth.

-Jeremy Nathan Marks

When traffic lights turn red

When traffic lights turn red

When traffic lights turn red
storefronts glint
like flintlock

It is second nature again.

From canyon into canyon
from beneath a banyan to the lips
of the silver pits

And the armies for tin.

Then past the intersection
things flare; go un-collared

Gone to ground. Hip-loose with stomping
claps, the worship house hits
in the street.

Now who could really fancy that they
are a caballero when the bolas
are bullets:

Shotgun “shoot em for he runs now”
digs out the boulevard for the dead

When traffic lights turn red.

-Jeremy Nathan Marks

Note: The quoted lyrics are from Junior Walker’s 1965 hit “Shotgun.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FI7CtxlisCk

Its ghost alights nowhere

Its ghost alights nowhere

No one talks about the ugly farms.

Barns that are antique; rubbish heaps
in the woods filled with useful scrap.

A coyote trap.

But then what about the bonfires,
the bees and that quiet apart from the city.
With some drink always this life too can grow soft

Then turn slick as a creek.
Stir the well once more.

But the individual tree
like one seed or kernel or bean
who sees it-

Its ghost alights nowhere.
Crackling no longer. Without a lingering
flavor of an apple in the mouth.

So many apples; so many falls; so many
feasts for so many saints and the dust
that makes nervous promises waiting in line

At the elevator.

-Jeremy Nathan Marks

A point of politics

A point of politics

The enigma of the river
and of calendar time applied to a
vein bowls rocks into the basin of the lake.

Boats of dry bottom rivers
with sails and logs of furs. And the
cottonwood snow; they are all a collection

Of forks. In history books.

The new geysers too
applied like canons against this –this
instauration of twice cut timber. Of burned

Over memory. Logs that
are redolent of green beetles and other
travelers from further across the pond.

Play the fiddles and hosannas
but nothing stands still here even in
prayer.

So I saw men driving mules
yesterday. But it might have been a joke.
Or a point of politics.

-Jeremy Nathan Marks

Utensils

Jeremy Nathan Marks:

This poem really nails something. It’s like JCC was swinging and connected with the sweet spot of his bat.

Originally posted on A Prayer Like Gravity:






“The world is a stew,” 
he said.  “it's all a 

boneyard,” he said.
There for the picking.

And now, the pot 
itself is melting.

The stew is a study 
in oxidation and rust.

The first of its kind.
The last of its kind.

“The world is a stew,”
he said.  Get a fork.








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Un-corralled

Un-corralled

Nothing is ever corralled here.

First it was gnats then mosquitoes
with stripes followed by blue bottlers.

Even a lone frog drifting up leopard-like
but concealed itself with a floating penumbra of geese.

The dwarf trees,
those Douglases are only small next to their neighbors.

It took me one full afternoon to get
the sap off my wrist in the rolled up sleeves.

-Jeremy Nathan Marks