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This is Jacket 12, July 2000   |   # 12  Contents   |   Homepage   |

Mark Weiss


In exile do you hear
horrible stories from the homeland and
wring your hands? do you
turn your back and begin to make as they say
a new life?
As if body-language had accents,
which it does, the stranger easy to spot
across the field.

But here, watching the Irish barmaid wait for the drink, her arm
folded so that forearm rests against sternum and wrist
curls, her fingers
toying with a necklace.
One would have thought it painful, but the stance
has years of practice behind it,
the line from gesture to dance,
depiction to enunciation.

She spoke the gestures
of her native land.

And that other one did so after three generations.

I suddenly find myself imagining
my friends torn, dis-
membered, tortured, nightmares
from the evening news,

and imagine last words,
Carlos taking them down
because I’m beyond writing. ‘I have always been
a harlequin,’ I say,
too distracted to find the right phrase.

What kind of legacy would that be,
lucky as I’ve been,

all the sounds of the world to choose from.

Always puzzled by the separation of passion from the everyday.
Impossible to imagine the way instinct could erupt
through such lives, clothing itself
a form of refusal.

Even now your lips remember
when they were blossoms.
And I remember when I would say
‘Your lips are blossoms.’

Civilization and its discontents.
It’s a matter of degree isn’t it.
Complicity’s the point isn’t it.

Two kids on a dark porch
court and smoke and cough
across the street, expecting the night
and its breezes to disperse
whatever evidence.

Places named for the words first heard there. So
what I call ‘pomegranate’ you call
‘ruddy,’ or ‘went,’ and courtship
becomes the exchange of names.
Smitten, how charming that what you call
‘haberdasher’ I call
‘clout,’ though we both
swim there. Translating desire,
I reach for ‘cudgel,’ that mound
you love me to touch, the
left one, and its mate,

Every word a sort of conquest.

Mark Weissis the author of two chapbooks and two collections of poems. A third chapbook is in preparation by Chax Press. He is publisher and editor of Junction Press. A New Yorker for most of his life, he currently resides in San Diego, California. You can read another poem by Mark Weiss in this issue of Jacket.

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