Marcus Read, born in Chicago in 1968, now teaches American History in a small community college in New England. He lives in a two-hundred-year-old Shaker barn with his wife, four sons, and a capybara named Bennett. His hobbies are keeping tropical fish, wood-working,
and collecting antique firearms. Marcus informs us that he would rather be writing poetry than grading papers, but would never give up
teaching for anything.
to be read by Andrew Dice Clay
I’d write a pretty flower poem
but mine are blue and black.
I tried a happy ditty once;
alas, it sounded wack.
And let me tell you, sweet Candide
(perhaps a little smugly),
I’d write a pretty flower poem
if Life was not so ugly.
Fourth Estate Sale
The News is good as he who risks it.
John and Roger always nix it;
under-the-rug, the faux Fox whisks it,
breaking headlines just to fix it.
Sticks and stones
may strike our tanks;
this as “Thanks!”
An observation deck is stacked
on stories, unbelievably tall,
until a building code is cracked . . .
An observation deck is stacked,
and frame by frame the towers fall.
A cell, a ring, a judgement call,
an observation deck is stacked
on stories, unbelievably tall.
And what about those
Next they’ll tell us
it was termites.
"Einstürzende Neubaten" means "collapsing new
buildings." The poem's title was taken from the name of an avant-garde German
I’ll wait for Death in the dooryard a bard forever alive,
he’s traveled far, it’s just polite to meet him in the drive,
and well before he rings the bell, as Granny has a heart
that’s weak enough to skip a beat, he’d give her quite the start!
And best to not upset the wife, nor little ones awaken,
it’s me he’s after, afterall, for the Afterlife to be taken.
As such, I’d much prefer to stand and smoke (a cigarette),
considering my life, a bloke who’s lived without regret. . .
To scream and cry and run away would wake the bloody town,
and cruel I’d be to make him have to work to bring me down . . .
I’ll wait for Death in the dooryard a bard forever alive,
he’s traveled far, it’s just polite to meet him in the drive.
a 2008 Home Theater Review
First of all,
all of the people can fly . . .
for real! It’s how the thing opens.
And what’s holding them up?
These protective white suits,
recycled from old solar rayguns.
Dude, each of them lives
right inside his own house . . .
and get this: even children can read!
Okay, press the pause-release,
here’s where the plot unfolds . . .
everyone eats, and for free!
It’s a little far-fetched
that a race could turn out
to evolve into that, overnight.
the ’script sure is familiar . . .
original work? Yeah, whatever.
get past the commercial.
Make sure that you catch the beginning.
There’s a twist, it’s the Voting Scene’s
deus ex machina ending;
it comes at the start.
The Election Results . . . here’s the part. . .
That’s the president? Weird.
Let me see that remote.
Time and again the old Budweiser clock,
working raga-like, circles its ticks with a tock;
hear the beat reconcile in each double sink's drip,
'cause tonight Janie’s giving-up giving him lip.
A cantor reveals accord is diminished
in spiral gyrations of dishes unfinished,
a meter wound down and considering ending,
in second-hand movements of orderly wending.
Her favorite lamp! Then it's off, ta deer camp . . .
Who cares if he’s really just screwin’ that tramp?
A Country Goodbye, the grey swollen eye,
his touch is the thing she remembers him by.
Massaging it now, with a little Sloan's Liniment,
into the tonic C, closure is imminent,
bina incited to feverish pitch,
and it's Janie who's mad (now ain't that a switch?).
The dishes she stacks echo clapping crescendos,
a swaying of arms overhead, end-to-end, and those
on-going gongs in elliptic rotations
are ticking off mandelbrot mandala stations.
A long-handled axe is above the twin sink,
a balancing scale. She's
starting to think. . .
then a glance at the door, coronet to the fore. . .
As Grammy says, Janie's inclined to want more.
Moaning drones, in their own inside-out undertones,
bow to louder sounds, unbridled drums, saxophones,
in a carnival home-stretch, a thunder Carnatic,
a towering cloud, and a crowd now ecstatic.
In fractals that turn on the lot that’s her man’s,
a position at Walmart sets simmering plans. . .
but a Dodge in the driveway pulls in for a fight.
One way or another Janie's goin' out tonight.
Hologram—a Preoccupation with Gematriya
It is only now, approaching thirty-nine, no longer in my prime,
that I find myself with time to spare, free to work
on a troublesome accounting exercise from my youth,
one I can’t seem to forget.
Although it appears that I am finally close to a solution,
I am, sadly, missing some of the numbers. C’est la Guerre.
This might take a second, bear with me,
you’ll come to share my conviction that equations of this sort
can be balanced by pointing out the increase in mean values,
as time marches on.
So I promise, for the moment, to dispense with all the bush-beating,
and relate it to you just as it was handed down to me.
I’m in the Sholem Aleichem Supermarket,
on the express check-out line.
An efficient conveyer belt moves everyone’s goods along.
I must be around ten. My undeveloped arms don’t carry much;
everything must go down on the counter now, quick,
as I’ve already turned in my hand basket.
Out of my hands,
My Things are on their own against the dark rubber tide.
They race off, picking up the slack, to bump
up against the Not Mine right in front of us.
I keep pulling back the dressing/lettuce/Scope/
bacon/bread/Hellman’s mayo/skimmed milk, trying to hang
on to my stuff so it won’t be dragged off, all mixed-up
with somebody else’s.
[This must have been right before place-holders—you know,
things like barriers
or batons, to keep those following orders away from the
first order in line.]
Suddenly, out of Mercy, or boredom,
the cashier turns off the relentless black path,
and commerce stops in its tracks.
The Not Mine,
Dutch Cleanser/mustard/9-Lives Liver/jars of new kraut/prepared
horseradish/two short, white candles in thick-looking glass,
clink clink, clink clink-ing. . .
now in the bag, crystal chatter hushed,
another load discharged, ready to be shunted-off
to who knows where. . .
[Oh, and pardon all these asides, I’m sure you’ll get it in the end.]
Aaaand. . . there seems to be yet another hold up.
This is turning out to be more of a wait than I thought,
but slow and steady wins the race, right?
The tips of my fingers softly beat a tattoo of their own
on the edge of a SwissmisS trial-size display stand.
I’ve got my money out. It’s almost my turn.
[Now, don’t be distracted by those Initial Capitals, we’re going to follow
a little rule of my own devising.]
I gather myself and head toward the front, about
to pass under an imposing banner hanging
over our heads, SwissmisS—A Sweet Indulgence.
They’re not the only ones to take advantage
of every possible opportunity to brand a captive audience.
We have campaigns like this all the time, everywhere you look,
being waged to leverage our urges. . .
“You can take Salem out of the country but. . .
you can’t take the Country out of Saaa-lem.”
[Yes, this is back in the days when you could even smoke, man (in public!),
and nobody would dare say a word. It was the Golden Age of commercials,
a juggernaut gassed by three M’s, money, money, money to burn.
The Dow’ was down then, too. Didn’t stop ‘em.]
God help us, I think I'm losing my mind.
Express—hah! This is an absolute eternity.
I would’ve been better off in the hands of a local Burger King,
marginally, and quite possibly been left with more change. . .
And hot as an oven in here. Or maybe it’s me, these damned
insulated boots are a drag. But just as I start to open my collar, look—
there’s actually room enough for two baby scissor-steps!
The fellow behind me silently understands
that he ought to come forward down the line,
in support of our nominal progress.
[You see, in a word problem of this nature, it is important to consider all
of the qualities.]
A whole two feet, good. I can't complain though,
things are moving along well. Or well enough. . .
Our incremental movements
account for me being deposited
at the base of a super tall, cardstock cut-out,
a Heidi-looking, blonde model type,
distant Alps folding crisply in the sunlight behind her,
that white Tyrolean apron kept so unbelievably clean.
[Remember when they used to show us the whole character?
Now all we get is a plain red label, with the old slogan.]
I have to lean my head way back
to meet her saucer-like, Dresden blue eyes.
Ho-yo-to-ho to you too, sister.
I bet from way up there,
she has a much better view of the proceedings—which are taking
so very Christ-forsaken, infernally freeking long!
But in following the direction of her glazed stare,
I happen to see just what’s been holding us up;
and idlewise, we all look on as a frayed,
pride-bent remainder of an old woman,
owner of the Not Mine, continues
to count her change, slowly,
and with a shaking finger,
the worn brown sleeve. . .
haltingly. . .
rising. . .
so totally irresistibly,
that I am completely drawn in by that hand;
and strobed by the store’s flickering fluorescent, I spot a series
of ordered figures laid down in a row, revealed
on a murmuring parchment, pulse half-alive,
though ghosted to the same light shade
as the vein that underscored them,
1 2 0 4 6. . .
a number line so long, that though the end of it
still remains partially covered-up,
it is riveting, nevertheless.
[Of course, this was long before bar codes.]
Now, this here is clear
evidence of a superior craft,
if simple enough in its execution.
A sharp pointed instrument is first pressed
under the skin, over and over again, deep enough
to leave permanent scars. . .
[Keep in mind, there are no extra cues in Higher Mathematics.
Observe the ellipses, again and again, so hermeneutically disposed. . .]
in symbols made visible once marked in ink
expressed through the tip of the tool, with each sign of dotted lines
rubbed-in under a thumb long-practiced. . . .
[See how each and every one of those recurrent dark spots is positively
illuminating! Witness them, even here, being repeatedly determined
to bring closure to the occasional run on sentence, un-indented
and left-justified in the end.]
A masterwork, punctuated by painstaking detail,
it rests a period piece.
And that, fair friend, is precisely the sum of it. A Division.
Part of the total taken away, reduced to its roots,
by a set too low for a real answer;
a quotient, more-or-less, of calculations dispassionate
as those indigo digits on the register’s thin white slip,
left to lie on the counter, quietly furling around my own.
But mister, if that sleeve had risen up any higher at all. . .
we could have the whole number, right now,
and prove it.