Mark J. Mitchell studied writing at UC Santa Cruz under Raymond Carver, George Hitchcock and Barbara Hull. His work has appeared in various periodicals over the last thirty five years, as well as the anthologies Good Poems, American Places, Hunger Enough, Retail Woes and Line Drives. It has also been nominated for both Pushcart Prizes and The Best of the Net. He is the author of two full-length collections, Lent 1999 (Leaf Garden Press) and Soren Kierkegaard Witnesses an Execution (Local Gems) and two chapbooks, Three Visitors (Negative Capability Press) and Artifacts and Relics, (Folded Word). His novel, Knight Prisoner, is available from Vagabondage Press and two more novels are forthcoming: A Book of Lost Songs (Wild Child Publishing) and The Magic War (Loose Leaves). He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the documentarian and filmmaker Joan Juster.
I woke from seeing long and level sands
stretched taut over fragments of stone almost
grains themselves. A forgotten face is lost
to light: Nose, eyes, beard, crown—gone. What began
in ruin has gone past ruin: Cool dune ghost
under footnoted moonlight. A thin trail
of commentary leads me past three failed
exams. Answers erased themselves. Uncrossed
eyes and teacups circle a past tense smile.
There are no creatures patrolling these grounds.
My hand escapes the sheets, groping around
for nothing at all. Do I make a sound?
Space is deserted. A broken line stands
Behind a statue’s tooth. It won’t be found.
They don’t get used
to this sky:
as a pregnant virgin--
with reluctant moisture--
sparks snap off street cars
forget how to fly.
They file onto buses--
without paying their fare--
just to hide from it.
It’s simple to forget morning
already absent from rear-view mirrors.
Afternoons have no voice,
unless baseball is played below the sun.
A littered table is all that’s left
this evening—names escape lightly
as butterflies. Dreams are scattered
like pennies from a child’s broken bank.
Because I’ve missed you so long I won’t say
I miss you. Whenever I see my face
refracted through whisky—then I miss you.
I’ll tune my guitar and miss you. Through years
without you—I miss you. I can’t undo
anything now. Lent passes. Easter nears
and I remember white nights and pub crawls.
I see your small shape through a long shadow
when the spring sun rises and the moon falls.
I remember you crowing while you show
me some new-drawn myth (ignoring my
small victories with a smile). And we would do
the great dance of drinking, of drugs and lies
and collapse and laugh and oh, I miss you.
She says her husband
smelled smoke and left.
She never knew what kind
of smoke—tobacco, sulfur
oak or hickory--
just that he smelled it
and went out
like a candle.