Anton Marco is Founder and President of WordWright Consulting Services. A Masters degree graduate in Poetry of Johns Hopkins University (he was a Teaching Fellow in JHU’s Writing Seminars), Mr. Marco is a much-published author and poet, and a mentor to more than a score of successful American and international authors and poets. He is a veteran publications editor, public information campaign strategist, grantsman and print production manager. Marco has been listed in Who's Who In the West, Who's Who In America and the Dictionary of International Biography, Twenty-Third Edition. Tony and Joyce Marco have five grown children and eight grandchildren living in various parts of the United States. Tony can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.
Aspiring writers can access Wordwright Consulting Services by clicking here.
What I Want for You Now
Joyce, after 29 years together, my “prayer” for you
This thirtieth year
I want you to wrack and roil
above me like a midnight
to flood soil parched
for rain and static fire.
I want to watch you
unfold beneath me
like a time-lapse film
of a blue rose
curling slim petals
to sip sunrise.
I want you to sheathe me
at mid-day like damp loam
whets a plow
nudging in Spring’s
first wheat seed.
I want you in afternoon
heat to lave my ears
in sighs brass-rich
as a beehive’s honey-thrum
workers will leave
only to sting thieves
and die defending.
I want to know you by sunset
like a farmer loves fields
he’s furrowed through countless
barned crops past mortgage –
land so well reaped and sown
he smiles to tears’ near verge
at every bud he reaches
hands to tend...
Sabillasville Sonnet 3
Outside, the locusts’ shrill plaints and replies
clash, clasp in dry air, ripe to carry fire;
all night their wings scrape high, hot, craving lies;
their flint-and-steel ignite my own desire:
Straining to catch the one spark of that cryer
on whose rough back the sound of loving whirrs,
this lover’s sifting ears refuse to tire
until, through all the trilling, he hears hers.
My words will sear their way to where you are,
so rasp-tongued, I flare flame that scorches rain;
and over mountains, fields and roads, I char
a path into your dream – and there explain
the wail of locusts throbbing in your hair,
your hands’ clutch at the breasts my voice lays bare.
Diving Into Morning
You dive slowly
into the new morning
green dream of the lake;
the sun beats gold overhead,
and gleaming memories of the night
in flanks of minnows lazily slide near you,
then flash into strange, incredible distance
as you grasp for them;
you drift down; cold seeps through your
blanket of flesh,
now blind, you clutch
the mud, slick like quicksilver
twelve feet below,
your skull’s an eggy nest hatching
bottom-feeding suckers searching stones,
you feel needs unknown till now
eat at your chest;
above gold shimmers; in you a hunger yawns;
your feet sink, pushing at swirling murk;
you grow into flame,
your lungs aching your arms;
now you break the sun and
you’re spawned of the water;
you gasp, tentacles drooping,
filling with blue,
spined by the chill of indeed gold, green morning;
suspended in the beginning,
you thrash through the opening
Morning of Departure
Dawn glints gray-brownly off beer and
broken glass frozen together;
sparrow chirps once, hopping on his stumps
(his ice-snapped feet still clutch the fire escape ladder) –
your pen scratched to a halt before the final letter? –
lovers above, still, gasping between humps:
Keep your fingers warm now tying
down the sails of the little ship. You’re…
(What? Yes, and the trees are blasted.)
done, and you slip it through the
neck of the bottle,
you pour the rest of the wine into the tub,
then snip the strings and watch
the delicate sails unfurl.
But don’t bother re-corking the bottle.
Instead, zip up your jacket,
slip your crypted ship under your arm,
police-lock your door, walk with your voyager
down to the subway and catch the long train
to Rockaway Beach and the jagged Atlantic.
There stroll seaside till you find a place on the sand
where kelp strews the water’s edge
(Yes, it’s so cold – can you smell what it’s like
to think of crossing the sea?);
and after you’ve made a mound of sand
and placed the bottled ship atop,
look through the green glass – there:
Two roaches climb up
from your tiny galleon’s hold;
the tide foams blazing in,
and you last see them,
back to front, antennae a-twitch,
on the burning, sinking deck.
A Walk with the Old Man
(a "holy sonnet" for Rev. Dean Haywood, Ph.D.)
Hey, mourning dove, do you moan from that tree
at my wisp-breath (once-staunch Austeran blast
that now faint-fans this heart flab-and-rust-grabbed,
scarce oiling my Jacob-sore groin; or knee
half-bloated; or left heel Achilles-stabbed,
right Hermes-winged but hobbled by sins past)?
Well, though I now limp-walk, still chained, stiff-limbed,
to this time-cankered corpse that plods my pace,
each step I meek-muster today's loud-hymned
from His own blood-soaked Tree and fist-scarred Face
Who trod my guilts to grave, then raised me free.
So, sad-voiced dove, no pity-plaints for me --
Till His Dove swoops to swallow my last groans,
I'll sing for grace to light in all my bones!
But let the sun and freckled children pass
above us... and the clouds... yes... here below
I feel your perfume seep into the grass...
Warm, fumbling winds un-stay Winter's cuirass
(our sweaters, too)... Throttle the mistletoe!
But let the sun and freckled children pass...
My tongue plays on your palate's sweatmeat mass,
Tree blossoms fleck your eyes to calico...
I feel your perfume seep into the grass...
Not far before I breach your soft crevasse...
White seeds float by--I plow my own to sow,
but let the sun and freckled children pass...
Chewed-lipped, damp-assed, "ravished" virgin (alas?)...
So good--no tears to cry for melted snow...
I feel your perfume seep into the grass...
The sun bleeds rust... Kids too far off to sass...
Planted as one, we make the flowers grow...
But let the sun and freckled children pass;
I feel your perfume seep into the grass...
Aphrodite and Icarus
(an ancient-modern love saga)
Thanks, Botticelli, Brueghel, Auden, Botwick…
She rose from the shell of ripples
I’d just made surfacing from my 22-odd foot,
bare-soled leap toward hot Missouri sky,
into what I’d thought was a body-gap
in the rust-tiled swimming pool’s center.
Across her utterly symmetrical,
damp, ivory-but-for-lightly-blush-cheeked face
(she seemed about 13; I was a sunscreen-waxy 17)
her wet-black hair curled like sea-snakes;
her calm, dilating-pupiled eyes,
blue-ebony as outer space’s edge,
blinked out chlorine.
I could see her neck and one white, dark-pink-nailed hand;
I didn’t dare glance long at more of her
than enough to register that she’d tank-tubed
herself in turquoise and ocean-weed green.
Below her slim, plumb-poised nose, plump peeled-prawn
lips’ cheery corners hinted, “Well, say something,
you hunky high-flyer at the sky!”
but they stayed soundless, seeming only
to air my way a mix of mint and gardenia;
and I couldn’t answer her, not even to say, “No!”
Her beauty, from some place beyond anywhere I knew of,
shriveled me so badly, I wagged my head as if
to hurl water – yet surprisingly, not her altogether
– from me, and I turned and fled to dry pool-side concrete.
But a few moments later, without guts
to even look for her before I took off,
I flew again, well above the pool, this time
from the high diving board into the far, swimmers-only end.
Then I sprawled 12 feet under by a chortling vent
and counted slowly to 120 before
I had to float up for oxygen.
When I did, there she was again,
treading water close by my head,
glistening a puzzled arc of teeth at me.
Again I wouldn’t speak to her.
I did want her to admire me (But I wish
she’d do it from farther off, I thought);
so that afternoon I sprang from every point of the pool
(my father and mother, top tier athletes both,
had made my “wings”; he, an astounding leaper,
taught me how to use them well),
even swam its whole Olympic length under water,
beneath dangling legs and toes – and every time
I kicked up to breathe, she was my first sight, just an arm’s stretch away.
How, with no effort I could fathom, she always found me
wherever I splashed, deep or shallow, I don’t know;
still, like some pubescent mermaid playing at yet not biting
a flashing, hookless lure,
she somehow never made me feel quite like prey;
she merely beamed confidence that her
innocently shameless, spritely yen for me
would be all it should take to reel me in.
So after at last her smile’s mute dazzle’d panicked me
beyond the pool’s fence, I risked a look back – and saw
this blissed young deity I’d flouted pouting at me.
But hadn’t my older sister sneered to me
two years before, “You’re so ugly, no girl” –
for sure, no water-born goddess –
“would ever want you”? And didn’t I believe her?
Now, my head and arms streaming gluey sweat,
I flew five full miles from these silent, far-too-wide-
for-me eyes, through mirage-thick heat to shelter
(I thought) where I slept summer nights,
on my grandmother’s screened side porch.
But the itch-crawling hours of dark locust-rage
that followed couldn’t shrill me to sleep unhaunted by
her eddy-borne image’s relentless rebirth
behind my tight-clinched eyelids.
So after that dawn and two more
I hiked the five miles back to the pool,
paid my way in and stayed all day,
looking for her, flying little.
This time, I wrote in my small, spiral “poet’s” notebook,
I’ll make my mouth say something, anything
that might let her snag my words’ bait for even an instant.
Yes, I hoped for that chance,
but I guess she was no regular there –
she hadn’t shown hard sun’s bronzing –
and the pool’s liquid didn’t spawn her for me again.
But why should it need to? She’d already probed
far enough past my corneas’ rawest nerve-ends
to red-ember me with nervous lust that her eyes
would keep finding me wherever I might ever wing (or land).
As I pushed her high enough by her bare insteps
so she could grab the immense oak’s lowest limb
with both hands and pull herself into the tree,
I caught a sharp glimpse (she didn’t seem to mind)
of the mauve, laced panties that slitted
her ass’s globish twin-mounds.
Around those wraithed a silky gray sheath
that covered most of, but didn’t nearly conceal
the rest of her body’s ample billowing.
I was 20 now, she 19 (gained a few years on me,
she had, as a goddess can);
and I was proud to be the only person I knew
who could spring myself into (or hoist anyone else to sit
with me in) the natural loveseat the old oak’s huge bole
had hollowed below its leaves’ twi-lit jady shade.
She’d suggested we meet there shortly after she stumbled over me
(in a wide bathroom storage closet where I was boozing
with some buddies) and I slurred to her about “this unusual tree.”
She said she thought a tête-à-tête there would “spice
perfectly” her weekend visit to my elite small college.
So as we sat now, her torso squirming lazily on a large bark-knot,
she drawled, licking at her lips now and then: “We can spend
Spring break hitching across the country…” (She’d enjoyed
my tales of continent-spanning “thumbs”; I’d been awed
by her accounts of her ventures in sophisticated European
sex – did she imagine I was comparably experienced?),
“in one sleeping bag – I’d like that, wouldn’t you?”
My blood began to roar so loudly I could see her mouth move
but couldn’t hear her; I suspected she was relishing
details of what she was certain we should claim without
hesitation: our unstinting rights to every bit of each other.
Only when she took my hand, drew it into her lap
and placed it on her mons veneris did I hear her
again speak, in mint and gardenia-tinged sotto voce:
“You’ll call me, won’t you, and let me know
when you’ll be in Chicago, so we can
get together and plan it all out?”
I don’t remember what I muttered back,
but I tried to hide my terror and grin Yes.
By some weeks later, at the party in Chicago where we met again,
I’d concocted the lie I told her then (as her shape
contoured to the snarling bear rug’s and peered eagerly
over its head at me): that I was emotionally
affect-less and sexually impotent, so I didn’t think
the holiday she envisioned for us
would give her what she craved of me.
I waited just long enough to see her face ashen,
her eyes blear, her lips silently O and her shoulders slump;
then I fled like a nightbird and bucked Chicago’s chill lake wind.
Hours later I came back shivering;
the party’d flagged; she’d left it solo, someone said.
I thought, Good. I’ll never have to see her again.
I was wrong.
At 21 I placed an ad in a local New Jersey
university paper saying I’d tutor Spanish.
She answered it by note, but I knew her immediately
when she lithed across the women’s dorm lobby in immaculate
tennis gear, tucked her feet beneath her on the couch
next to me and touched a knee to one of mine…
We talked about Costa Rica and Ruben Dario;
but her eyes said it was love she wanted to learn from
(or teach) me, and again I sloughed off her real query.
I stammered that I’d assist only Spanish 101 students,
so she should find more astute help than mine.
She shut her eyes and sighed; then she
took a card from her breast pocket
and asked me to call her if I changed my mind
or thought of anyone else who could meet her needs.
I’ve forgotten the name on the card; but I’m certain I read,
engraved in delicate letters, Incense, hand made
from essential oils: sandalwood, spearmint, gardenia.
I politely assured her (falsely, I knew)
that I would phone her if… and moments later
I sidelongly watched her hips undulate,
smooth as Pacific swells (no panty lines),
into the an and disappear.
I didn’t tear up her card; back at my apartment
I tucked it into my ragged Lorca paperback,
where I think it might still be.
I don’t know how she recognized me four years later
or knew I’d be riding an otherwise empty New York
City BMT subway car from the Upper East Side
to the 42nd St.-IRT stop. By then I’d become a hip,
honky “shaman”: my hair splayed waist-length,
a diamond-stitched headband kept it from sheep-dogging my face;
I saw the world through orange granny-glasses;
across my chest hung a necklace strung with human bones.
Maybe the long leather strips fringing from the arms
of my tan jacket clued her to who I was.
But I didn’t know her at first:
She got on alone at the 59th St., Central Park stop,
on her head well-coiffed, loose ash-blonde waves
shimmered like gold foil (did she think maybe I had a thing
for fair-haired goddesses?). She was absolutely 5th Avenue
cream-hued skirt-suited, palming a long-handled, sandy
pocketbook that demurely whispered Gucci, as did her open-toed shoes.
She should ride limos, not subways, I thought.
She had the pick of all the car’s seats but mine,
yet when she saw me she lifted her brows and bathed
bathed me in her unmistakable smile, clearly pleased.
Then she locked me to her eyes… She never blinked
or hesitated on her way to me. When she got there
she promptly sat her firm left haunch against my right thigh,
lissomely crossed her right leg over her left and my right shin,
and with her naked big toe tweaked my left bell-bottom.
And to assure me she meant just what I thought she did,
her face laughed louder than the subway din;
and with wan-red-nailed fingers she flicked her
pocketbook’s bridle-thin strap straight to rest
around the bulge of my crotch.
Her eyes widened, her lips parted, breezing me
with mild mint and gardenia, and I thought,
Yes, you, of course – who else?
Her whole manner offered me one more maliceless welcome;
as before, her sensuous boldness didn’t seem the least assaultive;
but I could tell she knew far stronger magic than mine,
and she was already brewing it, ‘cause this time
it snared me into such strait-jacket shock
I stared at her beyond the very possibility of fear,
or any power to wrest my eyes from hers).
Neither of us twitched an atom for at least an eon –
until the subway braked abruptly and jarred
a “42nd St.” sign and me back into time present.
My stop, I shrugged – and that instant thought of an ideal escape:
I let my eyes fall to my lap rather than back into her gaze;
then with thumb and forefinger I gingerly but decisively
lifted her pocketbook strap, conveyed it over
her legs and draped it carefully across her waist.
I set my feet under me and without looking at her again
headed for, then through, the yawning doors. (She didn’t
move to stop me or them, and they rammed shut behind me.)
Four years more still, after indulging in a failed marriage,
numerous other, mortal women and a master’s degree
on a teaching fellowship in poetry at Johns Hopkins,
I returned to New York, telling myself that if I
ever again lighted within her arms’ reach I would not wriggle from them.
She must have heard me think this, because
just a few nights later she did indeed re-materialize for me,
in an obscure Greenwich Village pottery shop I must have passed
a dozen times before. That wine-red Raku bowl in the window
(and further inside the store, distant hands turning
a violet-veined vase on a wheel) drew me through the door,
around a nattily dressed saleswoman, to the side
of the thrower at the wheel.
Despite my vow’s bluster, it’s probable that only
because this time her sloppy clay-slaps and she both
seemed so devoid of any glamour – doubtless by design,
she’d sullied her face and arms with slip spatters;
she’d babuschkaed her hair dowdily; she’d bagged
her figure in stained and soiled coveralls – I somehow
found the gall to comment on what she adeptly shaped.
I’d lived for a while with a potter, so I knew some
bright things to say, and she seemed bemused by my savvy.
After a few minutes she told me the shop was
about to close, at which time she’d be walking home –
“Not far, just 6th and 14th St.”
I offered to see her there; she nodded; and after peeling
off her coveralls (revealing oversized jeans, a frayed,
checked work shirt and chafed sandals),
she goodbyed her partner at the register, and we ambled
uptown through hordes of lolloping Summer tourists.
En route she pulled off her babuschka and shook out
her hair, and as it flowed over her breasts I gasped, almost faint.
But she smiled and chatted me safely to her doormanned building,
and as we entered the foyer she asked me, “Would you
like to come up for a drink? I live alone right now…”
She only showed me her full self after we’d shared
a glass apiece of prime Mouton Rothschild and a long joint
of the top Colombian I carried in a dull-metal film canister –
and she’d coaxed me to join her in a shower stall, this way
(reasonably, not seductively, mind you): “The wet clay slips
down my back, you know, and dries there; I can’t reach it all
with my loofah, so after a shower my towels get muddied.
Will you help that not to happen tonight?”
I was looking the other way, still undressing,
when she vanished behind the stall’s conch-etched glass;
so not until I slipped myself into the hot mist she’d conjured
and slid the door shut behind me did I begin to glimpse
everything I’d flown from for so long…
At first I saw only her back tapering down into her
wisp of waist and spreading hips; then she winked askance
at me and asked through the showerhead’s hissing,
“Would you like to wash my hair?”
I wetted her massed strands thoroughly with the sprayer
and began to mulch off tiny clay-clods with my fingertips.
As I did, she turned and slid her breasts across my chest,
and with tight-shut eyes let the warm water and suds
(and soon my hands) slide on and soothe all
of her hair, face, stomach, hips, legs and feet…
I never entered her that night; we didn’t need or care
if I came in; we were too intent tuning
every conceivable sphere’s and cavern’s music
our outer fleshes could slither or taste or smell
mingled with mint and gardenia joss sticks’ sweetness.
Our every inch and ounce and essence meshed well for us both;
this we stated every way we wished to that bodies and voices can.
At last, once her bedroom emptied of the smokes’ savor,
and we’d exhausted (for the time being) further exploratory notions,
I folded myself around her, ladled her backside with my
concave belly, and we slept, motionless but for
few, slight breaths and sighs that pampered us
for languid, drowsily lingering, tangent hours.
I stayed hard between her legs, below her butt’s
pillows, all night and half next morning. Then we
both stretched ourselves awake at once;
we showered again, then toweled off briskly
and held hands back to bed as if we’d just run ashore
after a duo dawn plunge into Atlantic surf…
For 18 months we flew only with each other,
deluging wax spurted from my wings and pores.
We tried to reach the sun, to meld ourselves into our own sun-alloy:
I beat my wings more sinewly than I knew I could,
to keep us above the widening sea of seething
wax my melting poured down. She rode me every swoop and sway;
I never tired of her or she of me;
each flight we soared in tandem lasted hours;
we never shut our eyes – even while our mouths
gnawed each other at our glidings’ heights –
even when our lungs rasped loud for rest,
the more we flew, the more we yearned to fly.
Funny, piquant, capricious she was in love and life with me;
even her verbal teases stoked my appetite for her.
One night I dared her to admit her unearthly origins;
she averred them and then quipped, “But your aren’t mortal,
either – entirely. If you weren’t half-god least, my Hunky,
I’d never have had the hots for by you this long. And by the way:
Whatever made you think I’d believe you had a dud cock?”
Somehow, during whatever few hours our bodies
forced us to await for our lusts to revive, she managed
to forge three years’ art college credit in 11 months
and graduate summa cum laude. Under my liking eye
she grew from potter to sculptor: Molding clay
and wax left over from our flights, she cast our grapplings
in bronze and displayed them at one-woman shows.
Me? I only finished and first-performed my three-hour
modern epic to music (the genes of my father’s
ancient Croatian scop forebears roiled in my blood).
She never chided me for having been the blockhead
who’d fled her all those years. But one day while we were
out walking I apologized for them anyway. She smiled
back, “Silly!” and thrust her palm into my far back pocket
(“I like to feel your buns flexing,” she said).
I tightened one for her – but at that instant, for the first time
I saw dread in her eyes, and asked what was the trouble.
She paused, then said: “Goddesses supposedly can’t die,
but you’re half-mortal, so at least part of you has to.
I don’t think I want to live forever knowing that.”
She said, “I can’t stand the idea that I won’t
have all of you, always, just as you are now.”
I said, “If I were a god, we could go on changelessly
ad infinitum. But I’m no god, remember, just a shaman.”
She said, “Well, can’t you become more than a shaman –
more even than a demigod? Then at least I’ll have you longer...”
“But aren’t there rules,” I said, “…that shamans can love gods,
channel ‘em, even sleep with ‘em; but we can’t be them?”
She squeezed my buttock fiercely. “On Olympus
they joke that we gods have courage to live eternally
only because we’re too afraid to die.”
I laughed. “Down here we’re less afraid to die than live.”
She glowered. “But what if I could make you all god somehow?”
“Has a god ever made any mortal immortal?”
“No, they say, but…”
“From what I know,” I said, “even someone all immortal
like you can’t preserve any mortal part of a demigod,
much less make a whole mortal immortal.
And you know I’m only half-perfect, so...”
“You know darned well which part of you I’d save,”
she purred. “But listen: Why can’t we immortals die if we like?”
I said, “All of you’s perfect; how can you die?”
She said, “You don’t think we gods come ‘warts and all’?”
I chuckled. “Haven’t found any on you, Goddie, and as
you know, I’ve meticulously roamed every visible
and internal inch I could get to.”
She flushed. “Well, maybe I should fake a few flaws now and then.”
I tried to close this enigma: “Look, love, we both
can’t live forever or both die…”
“Can’t we?” She clutched my arm; we stopped walking.
“Then if you can’t go on living, maybe I can learn to die…”
“No!” I pulled her to my chest. “Don’t die,
even if someone else has to have you…”
“I want no one but you to have me!”
“Nor do I. But someone else will, in fact, many more
must have you; isn’t that the way it’s always been?”
“What’s always been can go to holy Hell!
No, hear me out! If I’ll try my damndest to die with you,
can’t you try yours to live, with or without me,
till I can figure out a way to make you last forever?”
“But,” I said, “What let me fly to you at all… were
only wings of wax – and now even they’re dissolving…”
“Stop! Will you try with me – and live or die trying?”
I said I would, and so I did, and so did she,
for some months more. But Helios,
that Fire-Emperor we’d picked to mock,
would have none of our tries to fly
our own bonfire into eternity. I flapped
my melting wings till they were stubs,
yet still we fell; she clung to me the whole long
whorl into the waxy sea we’d made. But churning wax
is thick, and as I thrashed for something
to grab onto she slipped from me, and I felt
her sharpest nails’ grip on me shift, and then
draw blood. (I looked down for her – and was that
my father I saw below, watching our plummet?)
She tried so hard to die; she writhed so, even
her last throes with me wracked me to a last climax
past pleasure or pain. But as it ebbed it seemed
as if some sudden power or some one seized her.
She cried out for me once more, then clutched
at the milky light above was pulling at her.
And though I somehow found strength to struggle after her,
this time when I broke the salt-swells and gasped air,
she was nowhere waiting for me.
(Nor would she ever be again).
And did I at that moment hear my father
call: “Son, why didn’t you listen? Never try to fly
too close to beauty greater than this world’s alone;
gravity’s a load too heavy, and your collapse
will be too long, fast, scary – maybe fatal”?
(When did he tell me that? I can’t remember…)
And did I hear him weep for me just then?
I wished almost to turn head down and let the wax
suck me in and drown me – but this thought struck:
Haven’t you promised her you’ll try to live
till she can make you live forever?
I don’t know why, but at that moment some odd
madness made me want to keep that word to her –
and maybe more perplexing still, keep it to myself –
whether or not she’d ever try to do her part of our bargain.
Face it: for her, I figured, near-death will likely
mean forgetfulness; soon she’ll no doubt
find a next lover like me she’ll also wish she could
die for or make live always. And after him,
who knows how many more she’ll love and forget,
and never regret that she and I ever loved once?
But I can’t share with her that memory-blank;
I don’t have near her god-might for forgetting.
With stinging eyes I stretched an arm toward shore…
Not long after my lungs had spewed the last of the wax
I married a huntress-gambler, and this half-goddess and I (half-god)
have shared life and five kids, 11 grandkids (and counting),
for close to 30 years. The gods say
she’s a better match for me: She lights
no incense, uses Opium (the perfume),
knows I’m a horse’s hind end and a bag of wind,
and doesn’t care that I can’t be all god.
With her I’m earthbound, in altitude, attitude
and destiny (maybe) as compost, and I guess I’m healthier for that.
And though now and then two buds high
on my shoulderblades hurt as if
they longed to sprout, I know they never will –
and that I’ll never hope to fly again.
Flying east over Kansas to my father’s funeral,
I glance down through the mildly corrugated tough-plastic window
on a two-lane blacktop that looks like it might well stretch
(as such Kansas roads will) straight
between horizons, never touching another lane or city.
Is it really possible – Dad’s dead, but I’m not?
Just a year ago I drove my two daughters from Colorado Springs
toward Jen’s small-Kansas-town college,
and a 20-pound, sharp-pronged cast-iron staple
some flatbed truck must have dropped
ripped both my van’s left tires to rubber slits in seconds.
Why didn’t the next instants thrash the van and us three
to bloody mulch of flesh and oily machinery smeared on cornstalks?
How did we ever coast those level 100 yards
to that mild, soft-shoulder stop
where the van slumped slowly over?
No, it’s not possible I’m here, but I am, still –
well, I was somewhere else just a blink ago, wasn’t I? –
sipping my Bloody Mary there, as here. But Dad’s nowhere anymore?
Next to me, my seat-mate grunts at papers in his open briefcase,
whether about his clipped spreadsheets
or because he’s pulled his power tie too tight
I don’t know; his discontent’s his affair;
my only business today’s a death’s aftermath.
I see that now beneath me the road’s disappeared;
the window’s a round-edged square
of green-mustard-yellow field.
As always when and wherever I jet this high,
I think amazed how few scattered outposts
of congealed human life
(looking from up here like roach shit on dirt floors)
actually do spot this earth’s vast land-yawns.
Wing at night no more than 20 miles or so
past the biggest metropolis you can think of,
and you’ll look down into tar-pit blackness
as deep as any between stars in space
(gnarled, with rock-specks
or spewed cold gas splats
that light itself takes years to speed between).
But then, I’ve heard that if I could see the atoms I’m made of
up close enough, they’d look like toy solar systems,
their electrons spinning proportionately as far from their nuclei
as our planets circle the vacuity that surrounds our sun.
Yet, say the physicists, not even all neutrons “weigh” the same,
and many scores of identified, distinct subatomic particles
dart and slide through atoms’ voided interstices.
Must barrenness then not rule the microcosm as well?
I reach for the metal button, recline my seat
and think, Even though this nub of steel’s molecules
jumble together so closely my hand can’t penetrate it,
it’s nearly 100% empty space, too.
This cup my Bloody Mary’s in is itself only
vapid liquid in slow-flux.
And no, we humans don’t crowd the world densely as some believe.
Where have I read it – that everyone who ever lived,
each standing a foot apart from each,
wouldn’t even (unrotted) supply enough organic rubble
to form a body layer that could spread
wide enough to cover Virginia Beach, Virginia?
So why do I flatter myself that persons – or personhood –
should ever fill the gaps between the countless vanishing points
into which each vestige of “gone” humanity
must sooner or later disappear?
My seat-mate yanks a legal-sized broadsheet from his case
and nudges my elbow with a stray forearm.
He hums a sort of apology; I nod; and I wish I could ask him (but I don’t):
“Isn’t each thing we call ‘human’ – you and I included –
a mere miniature quasi-universe?
And what’s this frail airplane, that we should trust our tiny cosmoses to it?”
Instead, I wonder silently: Do I really feel any bit fuller
for having just eaten dry chicken and green beans?
And why should I (though I confess I do)
consider myself even the slightest proton emptier
because my father’s “left” here/now?
He’s left? Why should I think he’s any more or less vaporous
now than he was while still “here”?
Yet what seemed to make his voice so replete with passion and music
it could sing-ring his love inside my small head like a fire bell?
Wasn’t his entire vocal output but a wispy squadron of loose air waves
drift-piffling through macro-and micro-vacancy?
Now his two vaporous-fleshed shadow-lungs,
no longer able to flex a note, are disintegrating,
and with no better than c/d ghost-digits will I any longer
more than feebly recall his high notes touching my ears.
Then why my clinched-back tears, since I know that so much of what
or who I’ve ever been or seen or felt’s compounded
only of what nature so thoroughly consists of
but supposedly most abhors
(as I do myself, though with what justification?):
sheer vacuum – for was Dad ever really much more than nothing?
Or am I?
My seat-mate seems to be giving up on his papers;
he crinkles them into his briefcase, snaps it shut,
shoves it under the seat in front of him,
leans back and closes his eyes.
The plane air-pockets gently: and I think: What right do I have even to assume
that I’ll soon land in Newark and make it to a mortuary
to see my father’s laid-out, made-up face a last time?
Don’t I know well enough how brittle thick, hard-appearing things can be?
Not long ago I watched on videotape 250 partying Israeli singles
plummet to simultaneous oblivions – and neither warnings nor terrorist aggression
preceded the whole third-story floor they’d been dancing on
and them with it smithereening
to a mix of bloody-bony concrete-linoleum gravel.
And when earthquake, atmospheric or solar wind claw at matter of any sort,
however shaped or personed, why should any of it ever hold together better?
And why should I still cling to suspicions that my father or anyone else
might survive the explosion of person into chaos?
So why does it persist – my own huge ego-goblin I lust
to sludge the womb of some “beyond” with?
Why should the world indeed seem any lighter to anyone
if I, too, whirl into countless fragments and away?
And this being the way of matter and time, why do all things
(why do “I”) seem intent not to die easy?
I drowned a broken-backed cat once (how damned long it took);
I’ve watched fleas on a dog’s haunch scuttle
just quickly enough to dodge fast-clacking teeth.
(But, slight whispers can also warm lovers’ ears to climax –
and so few faint sighs need be lost before death can pour
into a body that life’s abandoned.)
Skin over my left pulse itches,
perhaps at the climax of some battle
20 million mini-warriors that swarm
that square inch are waging.
I scratch, likely destroying all sides’ stratagems.
And what might be about to soon
scotch my own conflicting schemes?
I hear my seatmate start to snore through plane engine thrums,
and now we sink into a cloud, and I –
but with what cause, I wonder, either to grieve or think “I”? –
stare through rippled plastic into whiteness
as utter as what, for all I know,
looms at infinity’s
Drums From the Growing Ground
Tell it to me, Ralphie...
Ralphie, tell it to me under this lean tree...
Ralphie, tell me what's happening under the ground
That pulses the air lightly
Breaking these new buds
Over my head...
Tell me why drums beat
Out of the ground, Ralphie,
Tell me what a long winter it's been,
How the drum's talking itself alive,
How sweat (flows out of the ground, baby)
Makes leather sing...
What's that driving up through your feet, Ralphie..?
Where were you all winter when I never felt you play..?
Did you find some growing ground anywhere..?
Tell me, Ralphie, please tell me summer's coming,
Tell me the ice is really falling off
These branches and your hands...
Tell me I'm gonna feel hot blood and sap
Pour down on me again this year,
And tell me there's gonna be wine enough for all our wounds...
Tell me I can splinter bottles with my tongue
Leaping from your drum,
And tell me how long till we die again, Ralphie,
'Cause every winter I'm on such cold ground, Ralphie,
Such cooooold GROUND.
Copyright 1968 by Tony Marco
epitaph -- lost firework boy
i am the slow explosion under ground
covered with stones and soil my body rests
but my hands thrust maple shoots to the wind
my hair is sown with poppies my mouth is open
maize is my smile i have taken acorns for sight
between my thighs a burrowed ferret sleeps
from my breasts speak tongues of yams
grass and weeds are searching me
moths hatch in my toes
i am dressed in deer's blood my pulse is
water desired above seeped below
over the rock on which i lie
my thoughts are a badger's dreams
the burning of roots
the struggle to the sun
moved by such life, my bones will not be found
i am the slow explosion under ground...
Copyright 1969 by Tony Marco
Joining My Bride
(A sonnet for Joyce)
Father, Father, Your still, vast, timeless love
created all that moves; and new we lie
trembling within Your unchanging embrace.
While hanging plants splay shadows on the rug
that crawl through muted sunlight to our feet,
our kisses mold our lips like mating doves,
and all the murmurs of our mouths are praise.
I arch my hand, love, ' round your neck and raise
my eyes, and there, mirrored in yours: White droves
of clouds drift past our windows, and flight-fleet,
swirling pigeon-hordes, and the merry tug
of two red kites’ reel-rollicks through blue space!
Oh bride, listen as His Wind whispers by,
fleshing of Word what His Blood’s wed above…
Where Those Colors Melt and Mingle
(For Joyce, forever)
As the lamp flame swayed and trembled
In the tears of both our eyes,
Your sweet perfume seeped clear through me,
And my heart sowed to your sighs;
As the warm light wove a halo
‘Round the fine gold of your hair,
All His rich Wine flowed between us,
And our lips blent like a prayer…
Where those colors melt and mingle,
He planted our love like a Rose;
And There we were no longer single,
We were one, as Heaven knows.
For a time the lamp’s wick stuttered
As the winds shrieked out your pain,
And our children’s fev’rish wailing
Pierced the thunder, hail and rain;
Then by lightning stabs you seized me--
Molded your mouth to mine and formed
Such flaming tongues of hope and courage,
Our souls reached beyond the storm…
To where those colors melt and mingle,
And our love opened like a Rose,
There we rode out the rage, not single,
But as one, and Heaven knows.
Now your fingers gently quiver
In the furrows of my face,
And you trace the scars the year plowed
As they dropped His Seeds of Grace;
And I taste each color glist’ning
In your coronet of snow,
And we clasp the Rose full-blossomed
That He planted long ago…
Oh, where those colors melt and mingle,
Our love’s sweet-savored like a Rose
Tender, mild-grown in Him, not single,
But as One, and Heaven knows…
Yes! Where those colors melt and mingle,
Up where the dawn of Glory glows,
Where we’ll embrace, oh, never single--
Ever One, as Heaven knows!
Music and lyrics by Tony Marco, copyright 1999
Words and Music by Anton Marco
Annette, Annette, before you came along
My heart was always missing one sweet song;
But suddenly, I heard it, clear and strong --
I knew, Annette, the day we met
That it was you!
Like lace just when the maker sets it down,
Like morning dew before it leaves the ground,
Like Christmas dolls still waiting to be found,
So fresh and yet so delicate,
Annette, that’s you.
So now I’ve got the notes to fill my song
With love and joy to last my whole life long…
When birthday toys and rummy lose their fun,
When ev’ry maze and crossword puzzle’s done,
Then all my riddles will be solved but one:
Oh, how’d you get your song, Annette,
Into my heart?
(Reprise Bridge and Verse 3, al fin.)