Mark J Mitchell – three poems

One A.M. Concerto, Saturday

A dying man floats up into your store
on whisky tides. Elgar’s cello piece haunts
him, lifts him, propels his one perfect choice.
His wounded breath, staccato as applause,
embraces bottles. Eyes slide from the floor
back to liquids. A thin smile—petulant—
a tenor’s—betrays his sandpaper voice.
He coughs to cover your too polite pause
and points. The malt’s as old as you. “Let’s pour
some.” Shrug. “Why not.” He pays. You splash. He wants
one last adagio, one final, moist
concert recap. Nightcap. The long dark law
awaits. He seals the flask and drinks. “We’re done.”
he laughs. Shakes your hand. “It’s been a good run.”


Fatima Ghazal
For Anne and Todd

Form is exactly emptiness
—The Heart Sutra

The shrine at Fatima
is an empty glass box.

The devout arrive on their knees
to pray at this empty glass box.

Close by, factories churn out
statues to remember one empty glass box.

Houdini would have worshipped
the emptiness of that glass box.

And for decades comfort
flowed from this perfectly empty glass box.


Public Eavesdropping
(Laundromat)

Tuesday his ex-friend’s best ex-wife just calls
like 1989 never blew up.
Says coffee or some such. He hems and haws—
so he says. He meets her for a quick cup—
you using this cart? Thanks. She probes his wounds
like some evil surgeon, but she pretends
it’s about her ex, he should see him soon.
Dumb crap. But he tumbles. Sure, they were friends
once. Needs one more quarter. I can see it—
She leans forward bouncing those new fake tits.
He’s sliding down the rabbit holes. He falls
like old oak. Grab that corner. Her tuned thighs
ready to split. And he splits. Never called.
Oh, yeah— she has Pre-Raphaelite eyes.


Mark J. Mitchell’s latest novel, The Magic War just appeared from Loose Leaves Publishing. He studied writing at UC Santa Cruz under Raymond Carver and George Hitchcock. His work has appeared in the several anthologies and hundreds of periodicals. Three of his chapbooks— Three Visitors, Lent, 1999, and Artifacts and Relics—and the novel, Knight Prisoner are available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. He lives with his wife Joan Juster and makes a living pointing out pretty things in San Francisco.

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Mark J Mitchell – three poems

Alcatraz Rabbit
For JJ

She had some Alcatraz rabbit in her blood—
Chasing justice or ice or secrets,
she would disappear sometimes.

But, just as the bridge summons fog
and a bay sings to that bridge,
she knows she will return

to where that cool caress
first baptized her, to where beauty
called her beauty by name.

Light seeks light—she seeks brilliant shadows
on this pastel gray city that always
calls her home to me.


After the Chinese Meal

You snap a cookie as a red sun sets
and you forget words you read.
She neglects each word you said.

The paper slips through your fingers. It drops
like a no vote for stopping
your heart. She takes off your ring.


Black and White Afternoon

The chess pieces are put away.
You venture outside. A cool day
opens. Light plays on the sidewalk
like a flute. The afternoon wind
picks up and lost bags swirl like sins
you forgot. Begin to walk

like you did as a child—you saw
each shaft of sun, heard each bird’s caw
from wires while you hauled new toys.
Rook to d-4. Your walk’s broken
by serious play. You note one
move you missed. This joke annoys

you. Now that the game’s lost you see
the false threat. Change course at that tree.
Go home. The c file’s a trap.
No. Stop here. Take this bench. Breathe. Rest.
Watch the world. Don’t stare at her breasts.
Sunlight’s a guest in your lap.


Mark J. Mitchell was born under the sign of Nun of the Above in the Year of the Bewildered. His checkered past has only allowed him to move diagonally along white squares. This has caused a permanent crick in his neck. The filmmaker and documentarian Joan Juster has had his back through all those years and promises to return it one day. Many of his poems contain secret messages and can be found in the anthologies Line Drives (SIU Press, 2002) and Good Poems, American Places (Penguin/Viking, 2012). The key to the code can be had for a nominal fee. His novel, The Magic War (Loose Leaves Publishing) will soon reveal the meaning of his chapbooks, Three Visitors (Negative Capability Press, 2012), Artifacts and Relics (Folded Word Press, 2015) and Lent 1999 (Leaf Garden Press, 2015) without even being asked.
Here’s as close as he has to a website: https://www.facebook.com/MarkJMitchellwriter