trees, brooding, self-absorbed.
The slow bright spot lost in the yellow leaves,
the birds that rush from the rooftops.
I dreamed of the sea in early summer
the tourists made their deadly rounds.
The composition of the day, ruined.
chairs, newspapers folded neatly.
their measured lives
the bicycle, propped against the trellised wall,
café, and its happy jingle of silverware.
Im talking about the wine taken for granted
bombs shatter your neighbors house,
and all you want is a glass, a candle
anything that vaguely resembles
the habits that keep you grounded
there is nothing left for you to do
except wait, and smoke,
in the corner of the hallway,
until the clarity of light lifts its ugly mask:
How noble art thou
I woke up thinking of Chekhov,
his afternoon tea,
the cherry orchards,
in the wet sun.
Perhaps it explains that dolorous note, right at the end,
like so many leaves, falling,
even the first blow of the axe
cannot reach the wound
after the photographer, Albert Renger-Patzsch
Perhaps it's the absence of color
that draws him near to this tree.
It is small, thin, and like a stark crow
it waits for no one.
There is a white field and a white sky
turns beneath the branches.
The first rains have not yet come. And yet
it is winter. There is no sound from the
shots, or the hospital filled
with the wounded...
Not a breath of wind, no birds or
from the empty houses in the village.
Perhaps he imagines the sky as a
frame of silence?
The tree, a sort of contrast, a line
drawn with chalk.
He has waited a long time to find this tree,
alone, in a somber moment.
Imagine the moon as he adjusts the lens,
his subject focused into deeper light so that it's almost dark
a few yards back from the branches.
Is it not like a small boat,
drawing us close to the shore?
After all, the night could only
afford a little rain
through folds of light,
and who could argue with the
climbing back into their cars,
Or Blake, for that matter,
who painted Newton under the ocean.
All morning I watched the
pull across the lake,
the flat surface, with its glass of
played the sun like music
from a different age.
It still captivates us
Giotto's blue sky and leafless tree,
distinct from the burning-
Less clear than a memory, anyway, of
and sickness of heart.
The way lovers will imitate the lost
the slow rise out of the self,
for the time being,
(fog lamp in the pepper trees,
and all the corners of the fresco.)
But it's hard, sometimes, to settle
for anything less.
It's hard to remember
not to take it all for granted.
So I look, for the rest of the
with my binoculars focused on the
the poppies on fire.
The gulls begin their ballet in
Now all at
they have risen together, floating
closer than I imagined to Dante's
closer than I imagined
From The Other Side of the Night
Maybe it's true
that the nights are merely a temporary shift of color?
I can't say what
was going through her mind,
my mother at the
washing the same dish for 15 minutes,
mesmerized by the
snow's hush in the red pines,
as if the body were
to its mechanical strings
and the soul rose
out of its frame like a cool rain in the open light,
a flurry of geese
tipped like a thousand candles
like a parachute, and all the squares of acreage
grow larger and out
the sad narration
of forks, spoons and left-over words,
propped up and
waiting on the table,
like a Chekhov
Some of us simply
tip our hats to the door,
like P.B. Shelley
in his storm-lit boat, like Socrates,
raising his cup of
much like that
character in Bukowski's Barfly,
To all my frien-n-n-n-n-nds!
with one last swig
and then he buried the axe for good.
Did he actually
believe he was going from here to the Intelligible?
And why did he hope
to meet with Agamemnon?
Did the hemlock
rush to his brain
or just to his heart?
In any event, he
died, feeling a whole lot better without us,
leaving his body to
the women to wash, and the sun,
Apollo, in a dome of trees.
Time forgives no
not even Agamemnon's cruel thrust,
into the frightened slave girl,
In the distant
a chorus of silence,
in the distant
a chorus of ruin,
in the distant
a chorus of slumber,
in the distant
a chorus sings of ghosts.
when it's clear you've left forever,
slows down long enough to feel its grief,
burning like the
I let the dark fall
upon the sweet grass, inch by inch,
I let it fall and
fall until the rain gives up,
until the night
It's like a tide
that takes you in,
always out and farther away
than the playful
yelps of the seagulls.
Whatever you see is
lost to a bit of sky, a field of ambiguity,
the window that
perhaps of some distant moment
cold as November's
debut collection of poems, Close to the Shore, was published by Michigan
State University Press (December 2002). Jacqueline Marcus' poems have
appeared in The Kenyon Review, The Antioch Review, The Journal, The Ohio Review, The
Literary Review, The Wallace Stevens Journal, Poetry International and elsewhere. She
teaches philosophy at Cuesta College and is the editor of ForPoetry.com.
For a complete biography, click
"Privileged" first appeared in Faultline,
"Small Tree" and "The Other Side of the Night" first appeared in The
Cider Press Review, and "Remembering Giotto" first appeared in Mid-American
to read more poems from Close to the Shore.