by Mark J. Mitchell 


Her morning dreams sprouted flowers with names
inscribed on each petal. They bloom. No fruit
emerges, but people die. Their small games
end sharply. A hasty burglar slips. Loot
expands across marble floors. A new lake
is born. All this unfolds behind her eyes.
She can’t stop it. She won’t. She bears no blame—
no more than a lark for song, tree for roots.
She turns over, sun drowning her. Windows
are her twins. Flowers wave and petals drop off.
You knew that was coming. She sadly knows
you would see her in your own dreams, dozing
on dusty sheets. But truth blooms in her eyes.
You can’t see. She sleeps, breathes. She dreams a rose.


As a girl she dreamed up glass-jawed monsters.
She wastes womanhood trying to withdraw monsters.

Part of this city feels older than dawn:
Cracked castles felled by the spawn of monsters.

A mirror on the floor the only thing that saw
his broken act, Glass eyes still call him monster.

Bank doors breathe open. Evil markets fall
at her whim. She’s a proud, well-financed monster.

Dream shards litter the streets, obeying laws
of physics decoded by short mobs of monsters.

Night drops on her pages. Crumpled balls,
unmarked by words—unfinished, flawed monsters.


He plucks thick bass strings
to support a threadbare voice.

It’s worn from all the years
of practicing delicate love songs

that must be in perfect tune
at the moment she comes home.


We women learn how to weep. We are taught
by goddesses, or so it seemed to me.
Now, girls come to my house when mothers see
their days coming. In cool spring, beneath trees,
we sing the oldest songs first: Women’s lot,

husbands and birth. They learn the weeping rites—
of Tammuz and Ishtar. I teach them to plant
cool lettuce and fennel, to watch them die.
I slap small hands from the sweet stalks they can’t
eat. Midsummer comes. They’re ready to cry
for dead Tammuz and sing what Ishtar wants.

Later, they come to my cool house. They’ve learned
what husbands really do. I have sweet balms
for pains and blend coverings so bruises
don’t show their shame. We sing the quiet psalms.
Girls cry. They always cry. I show them uses
for plants to stave off births. I feel them burn
with broken love. I wrap them in my arms.


Beauty is too often an obscure lamp…
                                                                        —Paul Eluard
                                                                        For JJ

When you sing beauty to beauty you waste
unskilled notes. Praise drops sharp as rain on rock.
So her cool eyes mistake your open face
for some stone-fixed door with a hidden lock
no key signature can open. Your bass
clef keeps your song distant—the quiet knock
on her last door or note from a stuck clock
she didn’t set, closing her perfect face
when you sing. Her beauty’s her beauty. Waste
your skill on falling praise. Carve notes on rock.

About the Author:

Mark J. Mitchell was born in Chicago and grew up in southern California. His latest poetry collection, Starting from Tu Fu  was just published by Encircle Publications. A new collection is due out in December from Cherry Grove. He is very fond of baseball, Louis Aragon, Miles Davis, Kafka and Dante. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the activist and documentarian, Joan Juster where he makes his meager living pointing out pretty things. He has published 2 novels and three chapbooks and two full length collections so far. Titles on request. A meager online presence can be found at https://www.facebook.com/MarkJMitchellwriter/