Balthazar Cycle

Kaddish

‘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.

Jument

‘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

501c3

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

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Revolution

Revolution

I am of
no more value than
a fish
of no less than
an octopus

There is no scale
no auction
only a fish, an octopus,
me

Am I a nihilist
agnostic
or atheist
a believer in a deity kinder
-or more indifferent-
than the best or worst we
(you & I, reader)
can imagine?

Jeremy Nathan Marks

Myrrh

Myrrh

When the pulp on the block
was at last bled out
I looked past
the privy and shamble fence

To the clapboard church
and dog, chained yard patched in
burrs he having swallowed
the creek bank shard
and bones

When that pulp turned hollow
I saw the flint spark
of dry January nights red
eye dust on the sill
those stars counting four footed
spectres

So I chased the chain loose
from my porch and what stole
beyond the barrel bled
out in myrrh.

Jeremy Nathan Marks

This poem appeared in the book Nature published by Writing for Peace, 2015.

Calories of burden

Calories of burden

The rag the man uses to polish
the axles; the sound those axles make

The rain amid the clip-clop of
mules’ feet; the rag now lying in the street.

Wood bestowed unto the Earth;
souls receiving souls; the rain falling silent

On oil dark piles. Iron shovels,
spades and rakes; mules now silent, pulling
no more weight.

And the man who feeds them
wages of his sweat: their calories of burden.

Jeremy Nathan Marks

This poem originally appeared in The Blue Hour on January 14th, 2015. You can view it (with two other pieces) here: https://thebluehourmagazine.com/2015/01/14/3-poems-by-jeremy-nathan-marks/