The sky has swallowed time’s poison. The sky
    is pressing on empty, mis-colored streets
    In this city, one—just one—baby cries
    When the sky swallows her time. Poisoned skies 
    weigh heavy, silent—in flames, but light dies
    and breath can’t escape. Lost souls retreat
    while their sky swallows time. Poisoned skies
    press down malice on cold, discolored streets.

Mark J. Mitchell
2547 California St.
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 734-7638
14 lines


        The blind focus puller
        hears every distance:

        An actor’s perfect, still stance,
        the tap of a toe.

        Each cough in a script
        read to him, is plotted.

        He could see once, and each
        slant of light he’s seen

        stays firm as a follow spot
        when someone shouts “Rolling!”.

        He moves perfectly—a thief
        of space and sound. Never fooled

        until they shot that biopic
        about a ventriloquist.

Mark J. Mitchell
2547 California St.
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 734-7638
20 lines


    Standing in tall grass,
    surrounded by a salt marsh
    I saw what might
    have been an island.

    It glowed, like the moon on grass,
    but the channel stayed rough
    as coarse earth and tides
    pulled in all directions.

    With a dull knife, I cut grass
    and bound it, shaped it.
    This was slow, difficult
    and as long as grass.

    Finally, I climbed on grass—
    that night had no moon—
    and floated to where tides
    chose to carry me.

    I landed on a grassy shore
    that morning. I was home
    and hungry. I carried my raft
    then ate its salted grass.

Mark J. Mitchell
2547 California St.
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 734-7638
14 lines


    He manned a crossroad where small sorrows passed
    rushing joys. He danced his dangerous dance,

    crushing them. Endangered pilgrims might chance
    tossing coins under his swift feet. The last

    coins were lost under dust. His feet entranced
    some sillier gods, who waved flashing swords.

    slicing silky air, weaving weapons. Words
    forgot their names too soon. Their thousand cuts—

    forgotten wounds, unnamed airs. Thousands cut
    through crowds to watch this dance. Invading hordes

    swerved past crowds, dancing with evasive hoards
    on tipsy saddles, dropping coins to the lost

    girl, who tips water like coins to that last
    crossroad guard, easing his sorrowful past.

    Dies nächt sinf nicht für die menge gemacht
    (Nights are not made for the masses)

            —Rainier Maria Rilke
            The Book of Pictures

Night. She hopes she looks east. One husband liked
early sun on her impossible face. Night
makes her sing of touch. He asked a picture
be made. She’d lean on a terrace, east wall
ahead of her—for the light. She knew his fall—
that death—waited there. He meant to see her

at his end.  Small man came with a smooth
board, pumiced. He arranged paint wells, burnt sticks.
Then he looked at her for days. He didn’t move.
She stood, silent as a laurel. She knew
what was and what was coming. Her eyes fixed
the distance. On the third day he tried
a stroke of charcoal, sounding like a wound
on an unshaved face. She looked out and sighed
the sigh of one who knew. He sketched. At noon,
he left. The board was bare. She’s seen his hand
moving. Heard it draw. She breathed, but kept still.
Next dawn, he tried again. Again. Again.
No pictures exists and no picture will.

Mark J. Mitchell was born in Chicago and grew up in southern California. His latest poetry collection, Roshi San Francisco, was just published by Norfolk Publishing. Starting from Tu Fu  was recently 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 made his marginal living pointing out pretty things. Now, like everyone else, he’s unemployed.
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
A primitive web site now exists: