Put down the matches

Put down the matches
‘Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.’ –Sigmund Freud

I think that your desire is a sign
that you are over-stressed;
a perfectly normal development
that needn’t be second-guessed

You shouldn’t worry;
all that really is required
is a few days off –a week if you can spare it.

Take a vacation!
Go someplace hot
where you can spend a lot
and enjoy how much more
your money can buy.

I have seen many patients
overwhelmed by stress;
it’s a sign of the times
after all you have a demanding job
and a young child, yes?

The martyr complex
it is a common one we used to see
primarily among women;
the price of motherhood we called it:
One must do it all
and do it right
and often do it alone
since husbands are not known
for listening too well, eh?

Really, you’ve taken being a parent
perhaps too seriously,
making it synecdochic for the state
of the world:
Save your child/Save them all
Heck, why not Save the Whales while
you’re at it?

And burning is an act of purification;
perhaps what you really are yearning for
is a hot bath,
or a strong massage
that will burn away the tension
(and with it some of your illusions).

I suggest that you must relax
as it is a mistake to think that you
can have answers for conflicts
beyond the scope of your competence.

Bring your frame closer to home:
children have to grow and learn
to suffer as we have
in order to mature;
but things have a way
of getting progressively better,
don’t they?

So what really is the matter?

You are just experiencing a loss
of perspective.
Trust me,
I have children
and eventually they learned by my

So put down the matches
and go out and laugh!
Take a hot bath! Hire a sitter!
Drink more than one glass of wine
and remember:
the lesson here is not to listen
to your pretentions;
just keep your head down
and go about your business.

Jeremy Nathan Marks

Roman Candle

Roman Candle

I must admit, doctor
I have this urge
this persistent sense
that my bliss will come
with self-immolation

I have been feeling
a sweet pain
a sensation akin to
walking naked in the rain
and then rubbing wool
all along my flanks

That is by way of thanks
to my maker’s making.

Does this take
a sick man
a wise man
even a saintly man
to do?

I choose not my passion
in art or science
in romance or even defiance;
nor in any partisan political sense

Rather I have visions
of men and women
starving inside of prisons
balanced on the eye of a camel
their bodies mutilated by
smug righteousness,
a palatable callousness

An eagle who is really a Dybbuk.

I have seen myself as an
exploding shell
fired into the desert
retreating like Rommel
into that vast displeasure
of the tyrant

Why? Who? When?
What does it mean to say
that I am more content
with the gasoline
incandescence of a human
soul, burning for God
and for Allah
for Christ, Moses
and the Buddha
like a Roman Candle.

Let me be the one
to light my own wick
let me overcome the nausea
I feel chanting
in the robes of the priest
that were placed
on my body by virtue
of my patrimony.

I am asked repeatedly
to pronounce my judgment
to self-praise my malaise
and call it truth

When what I really prefer
is to burn;
let me burn like the witness I am
not to some divine plan
nor like some miraculous urn
that couldn’t be quenched
for eight long days
on barely a drop of oil

No, let me burn
like the Buddha in my
or Christ in my love
or like Muhammad squeezed
by the divine words

I too feel squeezed.
But who will repeat my words,
those murmurs
that transmit only to the darker
deserts and are heard by
outre souls
subalterns of the civic spirit

I am sure my parents
my pastor
and my peers
would rather I didn’t speak;
they have no appetite for
my anguish as I cannot stomach
the surfeit of complacent fear

No, doc I-
how do I say this?

I simply want to burn.

Maybe someone will
let the blue light of my tallow
speak to that common denial
of the unknowing known.

Jeremy Nathan Marks

A Canadian Banquet

A Canadian Banquet

The party met for dinner
to fete an important guest
a man who had become
the most important personage
throughout the Dominion

He was to stand and make a toast
after the meal was complete
than lay out his plans for governing
once he occupied the big house
over on Sussex Street

The Host had prepared the meal
he personally set the table
chose the candles
picked the wines
did the shopping
and woke early that morning
to commence the cooking

He even went so far
as to personally choose both
the music and the decor
for the feast was in honour
of a man who also happened to be
his old professor of la science politique

The table was very elegant
and the lighting properly exquisite
fortuitously every guest
arrived on time to benefit

From the full freshness
of a meticulously coordinated
and punctiliously timed
full banquet choreography:

From front door-to-parlour
then parlour-to-dining room
there was a place for everyone
designated at a wide round table
that was shaped like the shell of a great turtle

The whole exercise was executed
almost to the tune of some faint
(but certainly felt)
melody properly called:
“Warm Firelight”
which could have been written
by Gordon Lightfoot for a snowy,
blowing Canadian winter night.

When the main course had concluded
and the brandy was being served
some well-fed reclining diner said
Come, come
it is time we listened
to what our honoured guest has to say
after all, wasn’t he just elected
Prime Minister the other day?

The assembled guests decorously chortled
and put down their roseate glasses
ready to hear remarks that would soon be
delivered to the masses

But before the Right Honourable personage
could rise to speak
the Host’s mother saw her chance:
she interpreted this momentary pause
this entr’acte as a chance to execute her pass

She began telling a story that the PM-elect
was too much of a gentleman to interrupt,
a story about the improper preparation
of victuals to be served to guests at
a state dinner

And while she never once glanced
at her son
the meaning of this apocryphal tale
was lost on no one
seated in that room

By the time she had finished
and the honoured guest stood tall
an uneasy silence had fallen over the table
but the PM-elect
known for his quick wit
broke the tension with a broad smile
and gave his friend a gracious wink

Well, ladies and gentlemen
each of us has a mother
and you know this to be true
a mari usque ad mare
therefore a little chiding is only fair.


Jeremy Nathan Marks

The Crones

The Crones

for John Panian

There are Crones at the window
with invisible eyes
at the direction of their limbs
I watch their timber brighten

Then spider across the glass.

The first light comes through
the spruce
and the Crones prepare
their dance

I watch the wall
and remember lessons
from the Balinese master

Look to shadows for intention.

Jeremy Nathan Marks

John Panian is an immensely gifted photographer and an extremely talented poet and observer whose work I greatly admire. His photographic “essays” of St. Louis, Missouri (the town where I was born) have impressed me tremendously and inspired my own work. I am trying to get him to set up a viewing space for the public because the work just has to be shared. For the time being you can view the photos as they appear here:


A dark bird

A dark bird

A dark bird flew into my room
and landed on my bed
where I was ill

Too ill to call it a bird

The wind from its feathers
made me wretch
the sweat on my brow
the relief just after

Made my skin tingle
the way a hare must feel
darting through snow

I did not know that it was a bird
and I do not know its intention

The predator visits her prey
but that cannot be
the nature of our relation.

Jeremy Nathan Marks

bombs to end all war

Jeremy Nathan Marks:

This week, this is my kind of humor. Sadly, I am not sure if all of it out there really is a joke. Probably not.

Originally posted on ALICEVILLE:

7 FOR THE BIG ONEH bombs to end all war
that’s what we made them for
at least that’s what was said
but those folks are long dead

motives changed over years
bombs now exploding fears
ev’ryone all around
civilians on the ground

once wars were far away
now they’ve come home to stay
bombers strafe neighborhoods
missiles launched for our goods

* * * * * * *

Thanks for reading.


View original

Organic Machine

Organic Machine

I had another dream
only this one took me into
the meaning of something called
the organic machine

It went like this:

There is a jewel of a lake
surrounded by desert
and high up in mountains
populated by legions of
devoted skiers

It is a place of
highly valued properties
and is the very model of
highly vaunted
tourist destinations

Praised for its
‘natural qualities’
it is, truth be told,
one great big machine.

I know for I
skated over its surface,
a clear plastic skein;
at first it looked
(and felt)
almost like ice
but on closer examination
turned out to be
a crystallized cellophane

The lake was neither as wide,
nor as vast
and definitely not as deep
as it was reputed to be
so I was quite surprised when
I could see quite easily
up to what appeared to be
the very bottom of its bowl

Instead of finding
a sapphire-coloured deep
I noticed rather
the outlines of more familiar workings:
those of a clock,
a vast machinery at work
and not the stilled boilers
or rusted gears
of a sunken tanker
or some purloined trawler.

It was this eureka! moment
which brought out
from behind a boulder
a white coated,
pocket-protected Doctor

She smiled simply
and said:
“Come with me”
so I did.

In her hand she held
a tiny remote
and with the press of a button
the surface of the lake,
that silent,
clearly motionless surf
was pulled back
with the same panache
as in that Sean Connery
Bond film “You Only Live Twice.”

The lake of course was merely a ruse,
though not quite a fully Donald Pleasence-esque
diabolical illusion
though it did conceal
a vast underground apparatus
whose primary purpose
was not immediately apparent.

What is all of this for?
I asked
It looks like some 19th century power
station with its whirling
but it could also be
a brewery with all of these
vast, stainless steel
-and stylish- stills

Is this some grand
high tech, nuclear energy distillery?
I inquired;
the Doctor just smiled

It is whatever we wish it to be;
it is our organic machine.

But how,
I needed to know,
do you keep secret from
the boaters
and the skiers
the tourists
and the property investors
that there actually is no
real water here at all!

Ah, she smiled
you appear capable
of plain sight
and you are, of course, quite right
for its is true that the Emperor is not
wearing any clothes at all
but when, really, did happiness,
wealth or expectation
depend upon its actual realization?

Not out here
and not along this frontier.
There is something which is
for us much sweeter
and that is the matter
of promise.

But still,
I protested (quite unable
to comprehend),
what exactly is it that you
are making here
that is worth maintaining
such an elaborate
and what precisely is this lake,
this “organic machine”
as you called it
for in the first place?
How can it/
why should it
replace what already was here?

For? Why?
My friend, it is a precise proof
that we can do as we intend;
that is, we can construct
vast machines
in improbable places
and plainly
-my friend this is the marvel-
we can do it in plain sight
with no one the wiser.

No one the wiser?
No, no one the wiser,
save, perhaps, yourself.

I shook my head
practically stultified
for I knew fully well that there simply was
no way that I alone could
be so wise,
go solo in seeing what appeared to be
so obvious, at least to me

And how long has it been like this:
this lake,
this enterprise,
that I have got to know

Well, she thought a moment,
how long since they dammed the
Or turned the Columbia into that great
power station of the nation?
Or tested atomic power at Trinity?
How long since they made Lake Meade
or turned the desert of the Imperial Valley
They brought seabirds in from the sea
who now roost not far
from where agribusiness
grows copious amounts of lettuce?

I shook my head again:
this was the West
the legend that I had heard of
but perhaps had not reflected well enough

Has it really been for that long?
She replied:
Don’t look so glum
as this really is quite a feat
along with all of that which I just
When you pause and think it over
isn’t it all obviously a benefit?

A benefit for whom?
I asked.
She frowned.

Well it is a feat, I suppose
if you aren’t content with
letting things remain
or to admire all the features of
those things that humans have not made;
that grand and inexplicable,
puzzling and improbable
out of which futures and
it is also true
nightmares are made

But what of the fact that
I dreamed of this lake before
I came
saw it in something resembling
its natural state.
And I knew its name;
it was the dream of seeing its shores
that brought me out this way
and up to this improbable gem
of reputedly deep blue.
It is not known for being merely
a glass eye
only seeming to reflect
changes in the sky.

When I look closely now I see
how all the colors are set
like a clock
but unlike time
they won’t actually change,
shift or bend;
there is no longer any seasonal
rhythm -so how then can I
dream if there is nothing to alter
the very terms
upon which my imagination
finds its temporary nest
its new field of endeavor
and inquiry-
How will I be able to inquire into the extraordinary,
those things which simply cannot be explained
or attributed to the flourish
and blot
of human hands?

she had an answer for this:
You are thinking like an artist;
I think like an engineer:
we find a problem
solve that problem
solve another related problem
spawned from the last solution;
the spirit lives, as always,
in the tinkering.
That -and she made a wide gesture-
is what this is all about.

While her response did not
stump me -and really only partially
surprised me-
I must be honest and say
I don’t actually have a satisfactory
response for her:
No, not as an artist qua artist
nor as someone who,
too, has his own plastic wishes
and putative creative virtues,
enjoys a noble dignity furnished by his craft
for I also am another admirer of beauty

But alas,
poets have yet to produce so far
their own version of Buckminster Fuller.

I insist that I am not being
a romantic about this.
Not really.
For I could respond on
other terms,
the terms of what I will call
that common need
to possess work, a craft,
a designation built around
the universal desire
to dream:
but it is a dream that
needn’t mean
bending others and other things
strictly to one’s own wishes;
perhaps it involves sharing
in a common beholding.
I’ve heard the word “heritage”
both used and abused
but what I mean is something more
along the lines of
partaking in a broader set
of archetypes

And rituals.
Because rituals must sustain
and cannot be sustained
when their common clay
is dug up and taken away.

It is not a vision of bigness
not if bigness means
indelible alterations;
but it is actually about a “bigness”
since it is aimed at embracing
the all:
an all-encompassing otherness
that also means togetherness,
a circle that contains us
and everything
again, an all.

It is not as yet
the imperative of bureaucrats,
senators or satirists
not even venture capitalists
who claim to be about dreams
but that does not mean that
they couldn’t be
we would just have to change
our notion of
the meaning of that funny word:

Yes, progress.

Who took a poll on its meaning?
When did the plan for prosperity
come calling on me?
I don’t need to be consulted
as a poet
or an artist
not even as a teacher,
merely as someone who thinks
that consultation is worth something
and that the antiques around us
still carry some water.

The antique
not merely for the sake of being
antique, mind you:
you can burry a bulldozer
in the desert for 1,000 years and that too
will become one (an artefact at the very least anyway).
No, what I mean is the antiqueness
of a knowledge
acquired slowly
as though our very life depended
upon it
not simply as some exercise
in making modern marvels
because we can go about
pushing back borders
or erecting monuments
to the marvellous grandeur
of our nature.

But I don’t praise it as
some survivalist’s pursuit

I mean instead
a common project,
a shared goal
hatched from that very wide
far flung nest of wonders
that makes us dream
in universal images and figments.

But I know that even now
my language is still concealing
my underlying meaning;
what I mean to say
is what about those savants
of balance
whose intelligence is present
within their full organism?

The ones who still know the water
as their vital filter
the embryonic stuff of both dream
and myth
and also of the successful hunt
and the humble gift?
Those whose savoir-faire remains
survival itself
and who were bequeathed
and are bequeathing
a wealth of wisdom, ritual
and inspiration?
I do not mean some paleo-lithic model,
such a suggestion would be
both naive and insulting;
what I mean is a kind of non-linear
simultaneous flourishing,
a theatre in the round
like a lake
whose line of sight is non-disappearing
a vector at once lost
in the ether.

I would like to get back to
a wet lake again
filled with bathers and
real fish.

You might ask:
in this battle of duelling visions
who should/ who is going to win?
Well, I prefer not to view this
as merely a contest since
my borrowed and (deeply indebted)
is of a circle
without any finishing line
and whose genesis
remains mysterious
with no clear author to attribute.

But I suppose it should be said
that if I am being read
then I am one of the fortunate ones
who is privileged enough to think
that if he is talking then he will be heard
and that he still has a place,
a part to play in that theatre,
or more aptly put:
can still claim a spot on the team’s roster .

To believe still in belonging:
that is my conceit,
it is also my longing.

Jeremy Nathan Marks