The rest of the story

The rest of the story

-for Colonel Kriste Kibbey Etue

This Yom Kippur
what am I repenting for?

For failing to be counted one among the degenerates

Whose indictment of the privilege
of becoming just another
not chalked body
with a pension and a Maserati
and a place at the table
with the Great White Father

Whose eagle-eyed apprehension
of the declension of the merely making sure
that a child and a mother don’t lose the father
3/5 of a provider, he
in homes that surely would be prosperous
and market ready
with more personal responsibility
no time wasted on grievance and history

(where I live now -Canada- just sub in the nouns ‘Reserves’ and ‘Aboriginals’)

That not so silent song of all the scorned sheaves
Fanon and Baldwin, James and King
a melodious murmur of the don’t belongs
whose genuflections on the fields of sporting battle
(as my conscious Catholic friend noted)
is some abomination before God and Reagan
and the Constitution
never to be afforded absolution.

But I’m reminded of another coloured man
Esther’s father, Mordecai
a penitent who said, no,
I won’t take a knee before a false idol
this king believing himself to be a deity

So Mordecai nearly died
but then again he didn’t because
his daughter was

And isn’t that the rest of the story?

Jeremy Nathan Marks


Take a knee

Take a knee

I am willing to take a knee with thee
and imagine I am sitting at counter in a Kresge
on a lukewarm late winter’s day
in Raleigh, Greensboro, Winston Salem
or Hampton, Virginia

I am willing to take a knee with thee
to hear the aroma of fear turn sweat into scent
and think that the things I buy
I buy with the currency
not of my body
but of my mother’s father’s mother’s decision
to keep reproducing a blanching pigmentation
rather than letting things go another way.

I take a knee with thee alone in my room
knowing that while no one can see me
I have to be willing first to see myself.

And I see myself and say
it is not the spiritual symbolism of my act
that is what must be brought out into public spaces
-actually physical places with truncheons
and kevlar and insults that can be heard up close
even if they are streamed in from afar

I see myself and say
it is not the fear and trembling of my bowels
or an anger so pure in both its shame and dignified
outrage it makes me chant shame shame damn damn
fuck fuck inside while wanting to turn saint
and murderer alike

I see myself on my knees and say
why is it so delicious to long for this day
to count where I stand among thee
while in my heart, in my head
I reach for words in anger that will betray me
so that thou shalt rightly call me

Hypocrite lecteur,
témoin blanche maudite
or whatever exotic words I seek
to shout from the rafters of my bought intellect
that profound self-suspicion about my own voice’s

I take a knee with thee
so you can wrap me in the colors
and shield me from the knowledge
that the undoing of what has been done
we have barely begun.


Balthazar Cycle


‘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
is absence

I’ve greased the axels
for a silent stretch
hear the switch and gasp
at 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
I seek Kavod.

The turnabout

If a man live a year or a thousand years, what profiteth it him?
He shall be as though he had not been.’ -Tzidduk H’din

A penny paid offers but paltry pleasure.

‘Five will get you ten!
But a quarter. . . fifteen!’

‘Two bits permits
a full night in the stable!’

In July’s ripe rank
the fair is where
the wares and cares
of husbandmen
are driven in droves

A market for yearlings,
suckling pens marvel
to the teat

Halter is a top
to make the breasts scream
gander your grok
from a blindered ass’s eye

Children ride these beasts:
wooly, blinkered, muzzles bowed
in pious -heard tell, mindless- effort

The turnabout.


‘Then the LORD opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam,
“What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?”’ -Numbers 22:28

Heart so full I had to look away
to allow my head to regain sway:

The quirt falls on the kulan’s back
in rhythmic command
it’s a tool I am told
and only a fool turns one down
cruelty never being a rule
merely utility

The harvest comes in fulsome
its price handsome at the exchange
if the feed allotment stays the same
it’s to keep the jument trim

A portion of profits will go
to an NGO
that looks after asses
in foreign places
their donors receive picture postcards
pinned to receipts
lustrous fur, ample feed
and gentle leads


In dawn’s heat
the threshing now complete
I think of that kulan
his fur’s lambency lost

We’ve tapped the sweet seas
greened the plains
grown cotton in the desert
and what does him honor
save eternal rest, now

It began with a furrow
and Cain recalls
his brother

Riding an onager
out at first light
toward the ochre
in the east
knowing all the while where
the tocsin is buried.

Jeremy Nathan Marks

Since no one is listening (as they aren’t allowed)

Since no one is listening (as they aren’t allowed)

‘Et quelques cris de haine
Versés par quelques vieux
Sur de plus vieilles qu’eux
Dont le corps s’ensommeille’ -Jacques Brel

-for Chelsea Manning

Since no one is listening
as they aren’t allowed
since they have blocked you at the border
in a Métis replay begun perhaps in 1870
when the policy was
undying fealty to her corpulent majesty
in contempt only for your mixed kind-

The historians will dutifully say that your enemy was in the right
that your soul is as black as all the black that is black and refuses not
to be black and therefore won’t die-

Since no one is listening
because no one is allowed to listen
because they have locked you in a cell and said
freak, hermaphrodite
and other things that rhyme with a march in double time
because they say the men who bomb mules and wells and tiny unweaned ones
are the real heroes
that we should strip your hair, your skin
your penis and anything that once made you a man
and paste it across the chest of generals in fruit salads of martial wonderment-

The politicians shall say dutifully that your enemy is right to make sure
that the emperor’s amanuensis deserves a fellowship, deserves to be heard
simply because he sits on power’s lap and power’s hand turns the stick up his trou

Since no one can hear the sounds of the American Way
and the Canadian Way (which is mostly a Yankee echo, not a thoughtful choice)
emanating from the corridors of the one panopticon where even today
they allow no television
the place where you were kept within the narrow lines
of their tweezer tongs of freedom-

Since no one hears beyond the fact that the blessed lone Black President
said it was fine to loosen the bombs and the barbs that you protested
but like an enlightened one commuted your sentence
so the gates of Harvard Yard
and now Sussex Drive
can remain closed to the unrepentant, unmerciful blast
of T’kiyah G’dolah for the principle (not the practice)
of what North American English-speaking democracies claim they mean to be.

Let everyone unite against you, Métis
because what are you anyway?
A woman who wore the uniform of your country
lying to your superiors that you had American gonads
with American fusillades that would curb and carve and repurpose
the brown skinned benighted lands?

Let everyone be denied a chance to form an opinion
because you scare the lies that wear suits and speak platitudes
called policy
that swim bare chested on Pacific beaches threatened
by the oil of the allies who are doing the power broker’s bidding
killing the people you showed were hardly the willing executioners
of the great brown multitudes designs on our burdensome thirsts.

The lies in suits who march in Pride Parades and say
‘I love your kind’
in two languages
and pledge compassion for the disappeared
while the ‘found’ and not-yet-missing


Tell me that I’ve written a screed.
Tell me that when I close my eyes and say
‘Post America’ when?
that I am just as sick as the twentieth century’s worst
martyrs and murderers of the American dream
and the Canadian ‘True North Strong and Free’

Whose victory day we’ve yet to see.