“and even you forgot those brilliant flashes seen from afar” -Ruth Stone

Justin Marks

from LONE FIGURES AT A DISTANCE

Something’s dying
I’m sick
of my vocabulary
Defaults and habits
of mind      The way
I walk      What I want
is to put into words
my own silence
A mess of text
I can’t help
but make

 

 

The timelines don’t align
The basic assumption is impossibility
The threat of America
The notion of nations
The speed and agility of a fighter jet
minus the lethal intent
History gets longer
The experiment fails
The high school football team
staggers onto the field
A sunset on another planet
The distance is vast
Preparation is key
Waves washing away
a newly built beach

 

 

Nothing matters and then it does
There is a plan and then there isn’t
Vague image called a vision
The music of the dead
Their singing   Its jarring
rhythms   Discordant
melody     There is no
security     Ideas form
then crumble    Call it
history      A child stung
by a bee      The child
screams      Wants somebody
to do something      Nobody
does    Call it knowledge
That which is there
regardless of belief
Odd phrases
Conspicuous absences
The illusion is real     A timeline
of circumstance bending in a
direction to be determined

 

 

A freighter floats down
the otherwise undisturbed
Hudson      Time slows
to a smudge
Not wanting to sleep
but wanting to sleep
Then takes distinct shape again
What is happening
has consequences
Impassable
hours     Lost
travelers

 

 

I had a vision for myself
The vision failed

Who’s speaking
is no longer
clear

The vast ocean
Violent waves

How is it with you
stranger

 

 

I stay up
and write

Make long
playlists

of sad songs

Each one
an elegy

New rhythm
of loss

and perseverance
Cycles of

suppression
and lift

Maybe even
nostalgia

for something
changing so fast

nostalgia itself
is lost

like everything else

we struggle
to keep



Each night someone wakes me and says
don’t breathe

My friends

your beloved names
escape me

The breeze and whatever
it does

I’m already
unprepared

We’re already
no longer here



To be in need of relief and know
there is no relief

To know each day
has never meant so much
as now

That these days are the end
and beginning—

a duality that is only
part of the pain

To be at a point of such loss
there are no words

The loss
compounds

The lack
gains urgency

until you don’t
break exactly

but plod on

under a weight

you’re certain

you can no longer

bear

and then

bear

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Justin Marks’ books are, The Comedown, (Publishing Genius Press, 2021), You’re Going to Miss Me When You’re Bored, (Barrelhouse Books, 2014) and A Million in Prizes (New Issues, 2009). Read more

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