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

I am looking for a girl

I am looking for a girl

‘I’m looking for a girl who has no face
She has no name, or number
And so I search within this lonely place
Knowing that I won’t find her
Well, I can’t stop this feeling deep inside me’ -Traffic

‘Fare thee well gone away
There’s nothing left to say
‘cept to say adieu’ -The Pogues

-for ‘Nadine’

I am looking for a girl
whom Joyce Carol Oates contrived
for some lonely, half-crazed
son of poor white trash
back in nineteen sixties Detroit

She wears tennis shoes
tennis skirts
bangles and is a brunette
destined never to work a day
in her life

She can smell the fires wafting down
Jefferson Ave
moved by a siren’s breeze
she could wonder whether the lover she shot
is caught in the thick of those things
a far greater indifference wouldn’t claim

Her patron
the man who lets his children
do how they feel
be it hunting each other
busting jungle bunkers
or bearing ‘eyes as blue
as the water in the bay’
knows that this is the way
of free born children of the USA

I seek her up that same Jefferson Ave
past the habits and habitats
of belled wolves
and plaited deer

I am nearly certain that I see her
swinging down Woodward
coming out of Hudson’s
trailing eau de cologne
like a song

That is until I hear a rifle shot
from a sniper
that is actually a firecracker
while her smoking pistol
drops into her purse

The Guard, police
the Airborne
they storm off toward Clairmount.

Jeremy Nathan Marks

This poem appears in the July 24th, 2017 edition (today’s) of vox poetica. You can also read it here: http://voxpoetica.com/i-am-looking-for-a-girl/

Note: ‘Nadine’ is a character from Joyce Carol Oates’ National Book Award-winning novel Them. The poem takes its title from the 1967 song “No Face, No Name, No Number” by the British rock band Traffic. You can listen to the song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbVo5LlmrJY

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

Torrent

Torrent

November woods rebound with a quiet ease, fathers
and sons dress and cuff those draped, pointed bucks

Shoulders that first learned to be lean turning rivets
and sockets can shoulder the kick from a long gun

On the break room wall is an art deco colliery print:
swarthy stacks, helmet, pick axe backed in amber

In the midtown museum the great four walled mural
features men such as these: shift clockers

They hear the whistle; the time card clicks; they wait
on a buck; they know their work.

The torrent in the blood, that lacquer of sweat, the sting
of liquor, that ache in the back, it cannot last.

Jeremy Nathan Marks

Note: This poem appeared (alongside “Don’t Walk”) in Morel Magazine in January 2017. To explore Morel you can go here: http://morelmag.ca

Don’t Walk

Don’t Walk

We drink from lidless cups on our break the pavement wet from the rain

Three cigarettes for him in fifteen minutes but I simply take coffee
reminded of all of the reasons this beverage is bad for me he doesn’t care at all not about the hacking cough
that makes his barrel chest bellow
not about the fact he started when he was eight

Who says we’re gonna live long lives? Who says but my doctor I gotta quit? Think I’m going to be doing this shit to the grave? He laughs, yeah, I do

From where we’re standing I see London Place that old crone in the clouds
there’s an office up there where they hold my mortgage its blue glass dripping a dismal grey not me, I say
and look at three men
old, older, oldest leaning against the loading dock door

They’re like a covey, a set of marks
on the corner the sign says Don’t Walk.

Jeremy Nathan Marks

Note: This poem appeared in Morel Magazine in January 2017.