Ventures

Ventures (a poem in two disjointed parts)

I

In Grand Rapids, Michigan
craft beer and gourmet food
in Windsor, Ontario now, too

You don’t have to go to London
New York or even Chicago
to try the finest contemporary food

But if your soul seeks more
that is, an authentic slice of Americana
or wholesome Middle American
the Rust Belt ruinenwert is a plus
as you can post your pics
to show your friends
while you hoist a stein.

Great modern ruins
industrial age relics
in places where there is still life
not just ants or roaches or grey dye-in-the-wing moths
ailanthus and sedge and other weedy species
but honest to goodness humans

People going about their business
scattering towards the light
of any camera that can find them
promoting the next big thing
whether culinary, high tech or architecturally related
so as they might rebuild

(In English-speaking North America you actually must replace;
as Chrissy Hind has said: ‘I stood on the back porch/ there was nobody home’)

In Detroit, urban gardens
in Cleveland, local gourmands
and a Cuyahoga that no longer burns and seldom stinks
middle American destinations where Akron is pleasant
and Youngstown quiet and quaint
both venture investment opportunities.

Take in the local ale
sample deep fried reinvented
bad for the heart but good for the soul
and didn’t it just sustain the greatest generations
dontcha know
this food of the great gone by:
steel lunch pails, stay at home mothers
and by golly, union protections.

II

Don’t tell me today how it’s more individuals that we need
what I hear and see is an ongoing call for solidarity

If we are bowling alone and staying home
watching movies in our bedroom

If we are denied our right to organize
to sit beside others who don’t look like us
in classrooms and home owner associations

If we are building gates and building walls
and pipelines with ample throughput
but fewer folks to read the dials

If we are -some of us- coming out to dutifully cast
annually, biannually our ballots
but don’t then see our lot improved too much
don’t go and say to us it’s less democracy
that will assuage our rage

I say, it’s solidarity.

I say, it’s not being deceived.

I say, it’s transparency:
show the whole sordid story
of who got the land
and who runs the boards
who sets the membership
and who calls the tune
who drives the prices
and who makes the markets
who got the land
and who then defended it
how the land was won
and what wars were needed

I say, it’s not waiting for
work to come down
passed along by beneficent hands
it’s not philanthropists
and their foundations
helping us acquire
(when they feel inspired)
what there is to have and to hold
essential goods
those items of dignity
those emblems of what was once
and what must always be
the terms of American posterity

You know,
those things without which
we become leaches
welfare recipients
non-producers
forty-seven percenters
barely worth the price of our human rights

Some mandarins have said they should let us die
to applause
and then there’s the likes of the Mr. Kevin Williamson
who from his high position at an elite online publication
insists that those who can’t adapt
who are mired in dependency
outmoded thought processes
(wards all, really)
that they (we) should be allowed to just drop dead
like President Ford said to NYC in the mid-1970s

But I want to say how it’s not worth listening
to this they,
those who tell you that anxiety
is what you simply must own and overcome
as you are its origin;
that your biological instinct really is to kill
and conquer
that to stand together
is unnatural, atheistic, likely some red error.

And alas, riddle me this?
Where are our poetry journals
willing to tackle
inelegantly perhaps
the great groaning grotesquerie
that needs raw infusions
of solecisms
and ugly, gaping, grasping illusions
to beat against the skin and skein
of craft and polish-

I suspect the answer isn’t that it’s now some sin
to be producing agitprop
as it could only be a farcical rerun
of Soviet formalism;
that in America we have to be more sophisticated
than that
and grasp the nettle with positivity
evasion and elipsis
otherwise we forfeit our chance
to be Dedulus
calmly, cooly and then in epiphany
moved on to other pastures
ever in exile
ranging beyond the dull, drear
rage and despair
of local, native pastures

Forgive me if I believe that a call to arms
is one of the Janus faces of art;
art as Madonna, maybe

So to see choosing sides,
that is barricades, fronts and frontiers
parties, cliques, claques
even caches
rather than simply voicing internal monologues
and coded dialects
as, well, once again, merely lifeless, meretricious agitprop

To me, that’s a lot of MFA
post-graduate slop.

Jeremy Nathan Marks

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The Alex Jones Presidency (Shadow Puppetry)

The Alex Jones Presidency (Shadow Puppetry)

The man with the codes
is listening to Alex Jones
while those in the know
watch his nose continue to grow

Who will tell the people what the people are supposed to have seen?

That the man in the robe and with the sceptre believes
that the tools of his presidency are tools whose power could be deposed
provided that the people and their servants stop seeing those devices
as instant, spontaneous killers rather than instruments that charge like batteries.

Who will tell the people that the dimensions of life on the screen
phone, television, tablet or computer
are not the dimensions within the school, the store, the shopping centre
even the home?

Who will tell them that what is seen is not necessarily what is
and that what makes a human human
or a citizen a citizen
is not fealty to symbols
but work, will, initiative
even a sense of commanding destiny
personal and collective?

Provided that reality is actually seen.

But how will it be seen if people look at the man and his codes
only through a screen?

Who will tell them that much of what they are witnessing
is an art: shadow puppetry?

Jeremy Nathan Marks

American wars

American wars

In my life I have seen a war launched on a lie
watched a sovereign nation dismantled in my name

I have watched from a distance a sniper and his assistant
shoot up, wound and kill men, women and children
at bus stops, schools and parking lots
across the roads, streets and neighborhoods of the community
where I grew up

Now, this did not make me rise up and declare myself a black man
even if I learned the hard way what it means to have my home turf
turned into a shooting gallery with too many innocents taken
I didn’t try to say that it was war against me or my kind
on account of bad shit befalling me (actually, it was befalling
the wounded and killed, their family and friends)
I didn’t go and make what was happening any more about me than it was
since it really wasn’t about me at all

In my life I have a seen a war launched on a lie
call it “culture” but that does not make it any less of a war
for as we have seen, there are plenty of casualties
even if not all of them bleed their blood to the same degree

My aunt recently told me that when her European brother
came over to our shores
he was struck by the loneliness, despair and anomie
in the gas stations, trailer parks and diners
he seemed to be experiencing what dear Gil Scott called
“Winter in America”
with the delicious irony that everything in our American winter
simply gets hotter.

Jeremy Nathan Marks

Calling it a day

Calling it a day

Gil Scott Heron was right when he wrote
that the revolution will not be televised

So, my friends, here it goes:

I say no to the word on the street
that unless you place it in a screen
you will miss it
that it never happened

Gil Scott Heron was right when he wrote
the revolution does not go better with Coke
that it won’t tell you what to do about the tiger in your tank
or the giant in your toilet bowl
how it won’t tell you what you can do with your iPhone
whether you should Uber
dress up in drag
push your legislature for a gender neutral bathroom

He simply said it would be live
that is, not some feed on CNN
no Reddit room.

Again, my friends, I am tendering my resignation:

You won’t find me looking at anything ‘breaking’
no more alerts
look for me watching rain fall at high latitudes
in midwinter
counting automated supermarket checkouts
classrooms with software programs rather than teachers
conservatives blissfully, blatantly lying
as liberals enable by conveniently forgetting.

You won’t find me looking at things far away
when what is inside or beside screams
shouts
a fieldworker watching every last cent
of what she makes
on somebody’s take
applied to a tab
a summit of debt
at the company store where the owner says
surrender yourself to impulse
and leave the complicated, fretful matters to us.

My friends,
please don’t listen any longer for me to talk about myself
show you photos of my daughter
tell you what my vacation was last summer
or gauge my reaction to the latest spate
of mass American shooting deaths

Don’t wait for me to log my dissent,
assent or disapproval
better yet, don’t wait for me to vent my praise
over anguished plaints of our collective guilt
because it really doesn’t matter with me now
not in any sense that I’ve been prepared for
by a dauntless belief in our inexorable greatness
divine patrimony

For you see
I am in a beyond America phase
inured to the promises of Washington, Winthrop
Reagan
what I see instead is how God’s vernacular promise to us
is decency’s auto da fe
that’s the new state of play
whiteness(?) all the way-

Please, don’t come looking for me
for I have no brand, no logo
no calling card, business card
no cookie or signature
no byline in some seldom read magazine
trying to bait its clicks.

Please,
I just don’t have a name
save the one my parents gave
(and my intimates have permission to use)

Unless you are the NSA
you won’t find me
I’ve called it a day.

Jeremy Nathan Marks

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
royalty

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

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
use.

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.

Publius

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
wait

Listen.

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.

Publius

Third nature

Third nature

‘Lawns are nature purged of sex or death. No wonder Americans like them so much.’
-Michael Pollan (Second Natue: A Gardener’s Education)

‘All over the wide fields of earth grows the prunella or self-heal.’
-Ralph Waldo Emerson (“Nature”)

Everything in America was second nature

To take what the Good Lord gave
and turn it into His divine perfection
was the legacy you were supposed to leave

It’s the skyline of Chicago
It’s that catacomb in New York
of the world’s greatest subway system
It’s the Intracoastal Waterway
and retractable domes
where professional sports teams play.

But now we’re into the third

And it isn’t Ralph Waldo Emerson
or Henry David Thoreau anymore

Perhaps it’s Hawthorne’s pessimism
or the condemnations of Babbitt and More

Maybe it’s that fist in the soft tissue
of a young man’s face
when he reads a water stained book
in his high school history class
talking about time-and-a-half

Maybe it’s an aspersion cast
at a woman who wants to be a mother
or a mother who wants to leave her children
during the day
and go on to become a lawyer
or someone else’s caregiver

Maybe it’s the ongoing neglect
of the Sun Dance
the piety of a sunrise mass
or the wherewithal of the atheist

Maybe its a Congressman watching the polar caps melt
while talking with scientists who have experience
and training to guide him through the patterns
of their empirical arguments
as he laughs and says carbon enriches our food

A third nature, yes
where Jeffersonianism
is somehow Clintonism
but really it’s amnesia
since the power of the executive
is just what Montesquieu said it shouldn’t be
and which Schlesinger warned was a sin
if it wasn’t wielded by a Kennedy.

It’s a virtual walk
through a virtual prairie
with cyber wolves
and grizzly avatars

It’s a week at a gated retreat
or a cruise through the detritus gyre
which our medications say doesn’t exist
as our world will be consumed by revelatory fire

It’s life knowledge without life wisdom
a post modern where a cigar isn’t a cigar
where when your insurance is taken
if you decry your loss
it’s you who are mistaken.

Jeremy Nathan Marks

Sin to say

Sin to say

It is now a sin to say
‘least’
but you can’t say
‘poor’
because poor is, above all, boring

And to be boring is, of course,
something to deplore

You can’t say ‘black’
because black should be ‘ethnic’
and ethnic should mean
‘white’
while white should be objective
and transparent to truth

Can a man say call me ‘she’
or a woman mean ‘he’ when she says
‘look at me’?

And what is sin
if not a mark of membership
a covenant
and a declension

Words that are not said
phrases you aren’t supposed to say
never ring more true
than when understudies
perform in their place

The star of each show
is the long shadow
impertinent, rancid, arresting
the actor who molests your blood
by unveiling meaning.

Jeremy Nathan Marks

Timid -Kallan Simms

Timid

Outrage. Disgust. Hostility. Silence. At my core, I am very different than my family. I know- vividly- what they think of where I live, who I’ve dated, what tattoos I’ve gotten, how I’ve voted, my independence, what I eat. Open discussions with them are impossible. I have never seen my grandparents so deeply offended as when they found out I voted for President Obama. My grandfather thought it was a personal attack; I was such a good kid, how could I?

This is not my grandfather’s America. We are no longer carefully divided into perfectly compact boxes. We are no longer purely male or female, Republican or Democrat, “good ole farm boys” or “them others,” this or that. My American experience had been one of conversation, open mindedness, fluidity, acceptance. I had bet my education, my life, my income, on this opening of the old-school mindset. Yes to fulfilling the need to belong. Yes to acceptance of the different. Yes, love everyone.

Until recently. What was once a fluid, evolving creature has returned to the boxes we all fooled ourselves into thinking were thrown out. Misogyny is once again dictating what is acceptable. I am hopeful that this a localized problem; one I have placed myself in. I no longer have the capacity to lie and say “everything will be fine, it’s someone else’s problem, I’m insulated and well protected.” It’s simply not true. It’s made me timid.

This attitude is a direct result of the political climate. Living in a homogeneous bubble makes it too easy to be small, go unnoticed. To let someone tell you to be quiet, don’t be different. It’s too easy to ignore the news, let ignorance be bliss. Too easy to laugh at offensive jokes, be polite and demure. Be seen and not heard.

This is not the time to be timid. This is the time to be selfish. Don’t let anyone tell you the things that affect your family, grabs your interest, keeps you connected to other like-minded humans, keeps you plugged into society, isn’t worthwhile. My stance today has to be bold, it has to make an effort. I do not owe anyone, anything that comes at the expense of my safety, of my opinions, my well being. Whatever my own life circumstances may be, whatever may be invading my own opinions and thoughts cannot be ignored.

We must continually fight the distraction of someone telling us to be common.

Kallan Simms

Kallan Simms has been a satellite technician, project manager and is currently an IT professional. Among those dull things, she also workers with raptors, dabbles in fiction writing, poorly maintains a DIY blog and dreams of living off the land. She lives in Wyoming with her husband, greyhound puppy (child), and ever-growing supply of books.