Mark J. Mitchell – Five Poems


A Prayer

   For herself

Because she laughs like stars
Because she converses with clouds
Because light is her servant not her friend
Because the world forms itself around her
Protect her from power

Because she makes ugly numbers dance
Because she is queen of the keyboard
Because she corrals theory with deeds
Because she rules but is not obeyed
Calm her soul

Because this house is messy
Because the kitchen paints this air
Because all her tasks are uphill
Because her domestic magics are invisible
Praise her

Because she lives on love poems
Because her appetites feed poets
Because muses bow before her
Because she is beautiful
Cradle her, always, in your holy hands

A Minor Goddess, Before Work

The fog’s back, licking the city. Low horns
almost form names. Rare newspapers skid
onto driveways. The air is thick un-liquid
and Dawn is scanning the obits. She’ll mourn
any death. She stands, tide slow, plastic bag
dangling. She selects a choice funeral
and climbs back to her door. Her stiff, small
hand has trouble with the lock. A slow drag
from her neglected cigarette revives
her will. Turning, she looks at the gray scrim
now lit by rosy fingers. We all die,
she knows. Her old black dress is clean. Coffee
awaits inside. She’s flush this month. A grim
cab ride. Closed casket. Sigh. Nothing to see.

To An Old Tune

He forgave your forgiving him
with his last smile—sweetbitter, hard
as his lost tooth. Time called you both
and both answered, agile, abrupt.
You knew that he knew what comes now.

You pardon his past. This present
still stings—long silence and short stays
here. Hopeless hospital. Now
it keeps—unsaid. All your unfound
lore lost. Like love. Like his last breath.

A Bit Of Cosmology

The clock obeys

not the beating moon
or odor

that drips off
loose stars.

But music obeys
only itself

and what we hear
is melody

and harmony

at clocks.

The Bridge Is A Cage

Dentri dai fuochi son li spiriti;
(Within the fires are spirits)
—Dante Aligheri
Inferno, Canto 26, line 47

The west opened like a book to a page
you forgot you’d read when you were still new.
Words escape red light. The bridge is a cage

that holds them in their gentle rage,
hiding sunset like a kiss. Then you
look west. It’s open as a book to a torn page

mended with yellow tape: A rogue image
conjured by a Spring sunset that leaves you
escaping through red words. The bird cage

won’t arrest you. You know you’re wrong. This stage
will fold, words will hide. Then you’ll see the true
west, open as a book and every page

lets its letters go and allows the day
to end—red to blue to black. It stays new.
You escape words, the red bridge, the loose cage

of vocabulary. The sunset’s stiff rays
fade to water. Night comes painting blue
the red west, its book, its empty page.
Words escape. The red bridge remains your cage.


Author’s Statement on Beauty

Just before the winter solstice, about 5:30 pm, I am standing on top of a double-decked tourist bus crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. I am the guide. That’s my job. I have to do this to make a living.

Beauty should be necessary.

It is very cold, but this makes the air very clear. The clear air hits the faces of the two brave souls riding with me. It is like being slapped with ice.

Beauty should have a personal price.

The new darkness is changing the Marin Headland from green mountains into the ghostly bones of long forgotten creatures.

Beauty should contain transformation.

To the starboard side, there is an island called Angel, the firefly lights of Sausalito begin to flicker on. The campanile on the UC Berkeley campus is white against the fresh evening.
Beauty should have a wide embrace.

The Bay Bridge leaps from Oakland bright as a seabird, reaching the island to breathe and then—

The full moon rises behind the western span, dressed in the amazing Bay Lights. The bay itself is suddenly silver, painted by the Goddess Herself and the breath is sucked out of us.

Beauty should be divine.

Then finally, I look back at San Francisco, her holiday dress on, ready for the night, filled with stories underway and waiting to happen.

Beauty should always have potential energy.

And at her Oz-colored center, is my home, and the person I have been in love with for forty years.

Beauty should cradle love.


Mark J. Mitchell studied writing at UC Santa Cruz under Raymond Carver, George Hitchcock and Barbara Hull. His work has appeared in various periodicals over the last thirty five years, as well as the anthologies including Good Poems, American Places. He is the author of two full-length collections, Lent 1999 (Leaf Garden Press) and Soren Kierkegaard Witnesses an Execution (Local Gems) as well as two chapbooks, Three Visitors (Negative Capability Press) and Artifacts and Relics, (Folded Word). His novel, Knight Prisoner, is available from Vagabondage Press and two more novels are forthcoming: A Book of Lost Songs (Wild Child Publishing) and The Magic War (Loose Leaves). He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the documentarian and filmmaker Joan Juster, where he makes a living showing people pretty things in his city. More at: