Mark J. Mitchell’s latest novel, The Magic War just appeared from Loose Leaves Publishing. He studied writing at UC Santa Cruz under Raymond Carver and George Hitchcock. His work has appeared in the several anthologies and hundreds of periodicals. Three of his chapbooks— Three Visitors, Lent, 1999, and Artifacts and Relics—and the novel, Knight Prisoner are available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.. He lives with his wife Joan Juster and makes a living pointing out pretty things in San Francisco.
AFTERNOON DREAM (LOW FEVER)
You must return this book to the empty room.
A white door opens. You have no book.
You return to the empty room.
A young man you once knew stands
beside an extruded pool. He returns
the door to its jamb. His pointed face
stays behind. You return, book in hand. The room
is not empty. The book leaves. You return
to another door, hoping this room will be empty. The young man
smiles with pointed teeth. You return to the pool’s
edge and drop a book that blossoms into a ship.
You return to the other side of the white door.
The young man bites the book with his pointed smile.
You slide under water in a full pool. Your legs return.
You kick. You drown. You return. You’re awake.
Under green light—sun
dapples through magnolia leaves—
Brown birds pick at seeds.
A light breeze kisses
pink flowers circled by a
Down at the corner
a brother and sister wait
then the light goes green.
THE LAST SMOKER
He strikes a Vesta on a wall. He likes
playing with fire. The paper tube accepts
the flame like a soft kiss. Her martyred eyes
follow his steady hand. She’s not tempted
to run his way. Blue smoke rises—rogue oil
on water—from his misused lungs. His cough
is low, is ignored by all. His uncoiled
nerves dissolve. It’s almost dawn. There’s enough
light to glint off blue barrels, bluer eyes.
He inhales the scene—the walls, the precise
row of men. He doesn’t think of praying—
she does—her piety’s close. The blue day
performs holy justice. The drummers play
their tattoo. A voice, slow as smoke, shouts, “Fire!”
Her baby cried like an opera star
so the bus stayed half-empty. Cars slid past.
She didn’t see them. Adjusting the starred
straps on a thrift-shop backpack as they passed
construction sites, she shifted her wild child
along plastic seats then unpacked loose piles
of books and cigarettes balanced on top
of a flat sandwich. She stretched. Pulled the cord.
Threw things back as the bell rang, looking bored.
Hopped off. No one noticed the crying stopped.
Rain dusts gray doves.
In dim yards, there’s a steady
drip from a broken magnolia.
Night crawls over the fence
silent as smoke from a distant fire.
There are no humans here.