Jeremy Nathan Marks is an American writer living in London, Ontario. Recent poetry has appeared (or is appearing) in Chiron Review, I-70 Review, Ariel Chart, The Wire’s Dream. Muddy River Review, Morel Magazine, Word Fountain, The Wild Word and Rat’s Ass Review. Jeremy is a 2018 Pushcart Prize nominee in poetry.
The Senator out on Woodward
The man asking for change on the corner
of Woodward and Warren
tells me how he once saw a great whale capsize a ship.
I joked and said: you saw that in a movie!
His face turned serious as he responded:
No. I was onboard.
all one hundred of us,
many months out from our home port.
The skies were blue and clear
not red to fill anyone with dread;
the captain swore we would steam ahead.
Then, without warning,
under a brilliant and balmy sun
a giant whale breached the boat.
We took a hit amidships
and before I could count to four,
there was a fathom of water all over the deck.
We took like a torpedo hit-
My father used to tell tales
of being on the Indianapolis
And we went as quick as all that.
I thought of him then; what he meant
when he warned me to beware before I left port.
Anyway, there we were in the drink-
But at this point I interrupted him
and said: a whale?
How could a whale take down a naval vessel?
who said anything about the vessel being naval?
The craft I was on was ancient;
we were sailing by the sun and the stars;
we were committed -wholly committed- to the old ways:
Wood and water;
salt and sky;
getting our bearings by charts and reckoning.
There was a purity to what we were doing
which made that breach so damn confusing.
I nearly died. Many of my mates didn’t make it.
He was silent. I didn’t speak.
The scattered cars heading towards downtown
were the only sounds around.
I handed him his change and said softly:
how did a man like you, that is, a sailor;
how did you end up here?
His answer: I was a Senator.
On December 31st, 1999 I entered my home
and didn’t come out again until January 1st, 2010.
The Millennium’s just a trick of time.
9-11? I read the book.
Looked out onto my block.
First black president-elect?
Still recall several first mayors
and a great deal of debt.
A neighbourhood kid cut my grass
trimmed my hedges and raked
then when he graduated
he went and hired his brother for me.
Of this I’m most proud:
through it all I barely touched
an electrical switch.
Detroit Edison presumed me deceased.
They called up one night after fourteen months
a call that was like taking a pulse
It still beats.
Was I the man who stopped paying his bills?
Never stopped, I said.
I just don’t get any juice from you I can use.
a man from the News learned all this
and he, too, phoned one night
asking was it true I hadn’t stepped outside
in (then) six years?
What motivated me to withdraw from the world like that?
George Harrison once wrote
and I quote:
‘Without going out of my door
I can know all things on Earth.’
I never actually withdrew;
things just came into hyper focus.
I saw much within one quarter mile
to allow myself this needed repose.
‘Vanity of vanities. All is vanity.’ -Ecclesiastes 1:2
‘. . . he threw his arms around the neck of a mare
that had just been flogged by a coachman.’ -Walter Kaufmann (Nietzsche)
The ass must have its kaddish.
From ditch to hearse
I count my steps
hale the carcass
wear a mask
This will be a secret pass
through a town where clarity
I’ve greased the axels
for the silent stretch
hark the switch and gasp
for the shank’s grace-
There is so little remorse
and suffering so boundless.
Crows and buzzards gather
along my plodding pace.
I offer obols to the chaws
but the buzzards are senseless.
Prayer is limitless
so I seek Kavod.
In Charlottesville I spy
the threatened Gunnison Grouse
then nearing the McGuffey
a grizzly is napping in a warehouse
I acquire a dun penny made of tin
and some antique brass ammunition
at dusk I attend a jury selection
in the Court of public opinion
Our fabric is brittle
febrile and unsettled
migrants move in circles
comforts come in strange vessels
The remains of our shambling civic sheds
are a harken back to towns of red clay
feed stores and decrepit cafes
known only to crones and neo-Confederates
What with days this long and hot
there can be but little doubt
that Dixie’s dark imagination
casts long shadows across our station
And with so little shade left to spare
from either true cross or sapling
and now with cupboards going bare
here comes our unraveling.