Ventures (a poem in two disjointed parts)


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.


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
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