by: Mark Wallace
Mark Wallace’s revelatory poetry trenchantly captures what it feels like to be an awake self dealing with the crumbling infrastructure of country and culture. The often mind-numbing contradictions of our current American moment disjunctively flow into the soaring half-truths of how we attempt to make sense of them, the poet knowing full well that “A word does not/ create freedom.”
Please don’t look at me like
at the power you’ve been seeking.
The distance between what people
say they understand. Wishing the train
cry took me with it. The ocean actually
could run out. These last few days
I’ve not said much. Public schools
are closing for lack of funds.
Images of the scene always
picture values. On the border
find a war. The vacation business
put towers above the beachline.
I remember waiting to speak
to you as if the day would change.
Of course it would. The boys jumped
out the car doors and into Rite Aid.
Commentators who don’t agree with you
aren’t going away. New media
connects people and keeps them
apart. Common dreams about flying.
Who has the right to tell
you how to behave? In the photo she
looked brightly into the day. The clues
we use to identify others.
Let’s trade official acronyms.
Sometimes running away just
seems sensible. Do you know a person
you can confide in? When I wake
late at night, I fear disconnected
things like flying to Europe or dying.
It’s good we don’t know what others
think of us. Time to review the trap.
Just when you think you’re going
somewhere. I don’t want to talk
about our mutual business connections.
Today is real but not for long.
A boy posts a photo of a boy
he shot in the head. Protestors break
into an empty theater, then are hauled
to an overfilled jail. Let me know what you find.
At least, he grumbled, he wasn’t
a solider in a trench. A woman tells
me women don’t write satire. The moon
as literary device. The loneliness caused
by people we know that we don’t want
to know. Does protesting make me
a protestor? He watched the Arab Spring
revolutions on multiple media outlets.
Rupert Brooke believed that war
would save him from love’s emptiness.
In nightmares, nursing homes creep
up behind me, and so do pie charts.
There’s no escape from groundless
assertion. Whenever I’m not looking
for love I need a hobby. Counting delegate
totals on television. Jump on the scale.
I used to imagine, if I wrote a poem,
someone might read it. A lot of people’s
behavior is based on constant fear.
More convenience marts now hiring.
The boys, the boats, their college
responsibility requirements. What does
it do to say no one is coming? Let me share
my latest slogan: A Pile of Abyss.
To forget awareness of time.
The bank’s signature remains official
until the bank decides it doesn’t. Strange worlds
vanish into this one. The room I walked through
told me about its owners’ money. Reality TV
or dead souls uprising? A word does not
create freedom. Industry stuck us here
but won’t get us out. On the wall, a fly.
Body and mind and poem do not
feel like each other. The room cries, “Get
out of my room.” Inspection and appraisal
services for each rewritten district. Animal
photos led me to pet the computer.
The American Dream is a scam, the crowd
hears but no longer blinks. I can say
anything now that no one is listening.
Never begin a poem with descriptions
of nature, I say in the direction of two
pelicans flying north. A man shouts
on the street because no one
cares what he’s saying. Sooner or later,
there’s more propaganda nearby. It’s easier now
to send an Internet placard homily.
Every seven days, Monday comes once.
Statistics now show Americans report
less people they can talk to seriously.
I want to assert that I believe
in justice. The sameness of wedding
photos is central to their appeal.
The death of the author is now
as dead as the author. A new restaurant
replaces the last one. Pay per view.
Mark Wallace is the author and editor of more than fifteen books and chapbooks of poetry, fiction, and essays. Most recently he has published a book-length prose poem, Notes from the Center on Public Policy. His novel Crab is forthcoming in 2017. He lives in San Diego, California, and teaches at California State University San Marcos.