Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 1
Spring 2010

[Two Poems]

Jack Marshall

In the Only World that Matters

December’s grimy window days,
staring out so long and hard,
looked all the way
from storm and lightning-lashed
skies piled like a blacklist waiting
to be whitewashed,
to May, today, when the wreck
of state is even less 
haven from havoc,
with stealthy, sly
agents wielding less light and heat
than the flash of a firefly.
But the nature of spring
on all things alive
is smiling, spreading...
On the surface, the gilded ocean
is peeling dog-eared foam
at stagey sundown;
from a palm, a swarm of butterflies
scatter like a meteor shower
in a red-rinsed sky.
O, if only the honey
in the precious pot never ceasing to run out
of what we piss in, weren’t money!
It is a crime
to not do
the time,
inside or out the window
we did not know
would so withdraw 
dear gone faces,
features, outline, which
anonymous blue erases,
the blue everyone draws down
in bowls held
with both hands.
Odd, how feeling like weeping now
the weeping 
I’ll have to do
later in this,
the only world that matters,
I’ve made a mess.
I wanted what I couldn’t give:
the heart time and space
to more widely live.
It’s all good...
So how much more of this,
by God!


Hapless Ass Pulped Anonymous

In a time when old men’s needs begin
to call
on depleted means,
it’s enough having had control 
of your bladder, and then 
losing it, or blood in the stool
to make crystal-
clear your place in the lifeboat 
leaking red corpuscles 
and white leukocytes is
like everybody 
else’s —
right here
with us who are
neither rich nor rare,
but common and complete naifs
plugging away
under Bosun Grief, 
before the instant
of instant change comes 
and goes the distance.
Nobel candidates, please, a favor:
email fax FedEx text tweet
twitter whatever,
but tell me when a telomere’s tail
begins to grow — not shrink —
in the aging cell —
(such tiny fins
spins!) —
on the way to wings 
and gossamer 
the shadow of loss
that covers
everyone: the aged
hearts that sorrow has plenty of
time to enlarge;
the weight-worn faces 
carrying their entire body-
weight; lovers who embrace
the flutter of sex’s
and look 
to fix 
on a hook
in space the present features
of a held face
before releasing it to the future;
future which still needs a few
more strokes of true 
justice hard to argue;
for instance, the bagged rabbi’s mail
henceforth rerouted from shul
to county jail;
the hung corpse, that had been
Eichmann, fed to the oven
tended by a survivor of the crematorium.
In a world hollow with holes
underfoot, and underground riddled
by invisible moles,
we on the surface love on
a crust,
underneath. O hapless ass
may you not come to believe chance
accidents mask elemental forces
aimed with malice; 
or that to
speak your heart’s desire
makes the opposite come true.
In speech
which touches
beyond reach,
may the sound 
which has found its true 
savor pass the feeling on,
even if true 
only for the time 
passing through;
and let the finger’s
touch be slow, sensitive, and sober
as a mine detector.
Take it
from Schnittke:
“I set
down a most
beautiful chord on paper —
and suddenly it rusts.”
Time running out, libido low, 
clear the deck
before going below,
or stepping off thus
into not exactly time anymore
that catches us
snatching our foot 
back before it can 
take our weight.


“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury