Mark J. Mitchell – Three Poems


K. 465

What is a poet? An unhappy man who hides deep anguish in his heart, but whose lips are so formed that when the sigh and cry pass through them, it sounds like lovely music….
                 —Soren Kierkegaard – Either/Or

His ghost entered seeking the source of music.
‘Mozart,’ I nod, ‘for you.’ He brushes at his hair
and smiles. ‘Yes, I know. Getting gray.’ A chair
waits for him, a glass just there. ‘Will you sit?’
He passes me his hat—it’s a tall dare—
‘Isaac’s managed to grow up,’ I venture.
He starts his Danish laugh. Stops. He’s unsure
which one is the terrified boy. I wear
my straightest face just one measure too long.
He sits, smiling. I fill his glass. ‘To your—
Afterlife.’ Matching water to his wine.
our little game is done. I strike one long
match, set fire to his pipe. His smoked picture
vanishes like doubt. We both ponder time

through the slow movement. ‘It’s almost song
right here. The dissonance is very fine.’
He waves for silence, his hand weaving time
through smoke. He’s empty now. All his words gone
to pages I think I know, but I’m wrong.
He knows that. He gives his silent lecture
and lets the quartet play out its measure.
He’s taught me all my life. We get along
like axe and altar. He’s the perfect prayer
I say on aging knees. I won’t lose it
now. Night covers this city where hills rhyme
with the moon. He’s mute. I’m not. The blue air
is filled with a dead man’s notes. We use it
now. I like his ghost. I hope he likes mine.

Indoor Angels

They choose
stark rooms with
wooden floors

marked by time,
wiped by death. No more
than three chairs—

also wood. They
gently tap the backs,
turning them

away from any
compass points. This
is meant kindly.

The Gods Of Children

The gods of children
appear, formless and pale,
out of darkness
summoned by thin wails.
They smell of milk.

Children’s gods enfold
them too hard sometimes
but their cloud of warmth
is a kind answer
to wordless prayers.

The gods of children
can be fiercely invoked
by cranking a mechanical tune.
They jump up swaying
and insist their boxes
be closed. Quickly. Firmly.


Author’s Statement on Beauty

“Euclid alone saw beauty bare…” says Edna St. Vincent Millay.

This speaks to the mystery. I think true beauty is what Bach heard, what Mozart heard and what they worked so hard to be able to write down only to have second rate players ruin what they knew was there.

Often it is the curve of a line in one corner of painting that is otherwise unremarkable.

Always it is the light in the eyes of the woman I have loved for forty years.

It is too easy to get lost in big ambitions that lead you away from beauty. Many poems run too long with lines that become settings for scattered beautiful jewels.

Here is a one of the most perfectly beautiful poems in our language:

Upon Julia’s Clothes
     By Robert Herrick

Whenas in silks my Julia goes,
Then, then (methinks) how sweetly flows
That liquefaction of her clothes.

Next, when I cast mine eyes, and see
That brave vibration each way free,
O how that glittering taketh me!

It is a perfect combination of sound, sense and sensuality.

There’s nothing to add.

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: