Two Poems by Morton Marcus
in an ancient hut
above the Balkan valley
where all the things
beneath the earth-
thigh bones, combs,
winecups and wedding rings-
Lie hidden, still.
Surely on such
a morning as this
the sunlight spearing
into a dark corner
must be glinting
on the lost key
into the earth
where all the bones
that have disappeared
will climb once more
into the light,
I should know better.
this battered planet
in the only way
it can-burying fists
and rusty knives.
It doesn’t take long in this world
to realize that you’re the other:
that the fried chicken and mashed potatoes,
arranged beside the buttered broccoli,
is a meal someone else won’t eat;
that the GI blown apart in Asia,
bits of hair and intestine
plastered to the banyan leaves, isn’t you,
and that the high school athlete paralyzed for life
isn’t you, either. They’re your brother
or your friend, cousin or acquaintance.
Maybe a stranger. Maybe.
But you are always the other,
the one who survives, who chews the chicken,
lopes into the end-zone, and dates the girl
he watched from across the street.
And when you fumble among her springing straps,
he is beside you, reaching out
like a breeze through the curtains,
circling your body and hers,
wrapping you both in a warm wind.
The coffee steams up from the white cup: nutty,
a chocolate sweetened with the rich, dark earth,
with all the dreams sighing in the rich, dark earth,
all the unaccomplished dreams of the dead.
You sip the coffee,
lumber through the tunnel of each day,
eat, dance, make love, imagining eyes that watch
from the road not taken, the tree not climbed,
the woman not loved,
the auto crash you did not die in.
And because even the strongest men
beat fists on their foreheads,
asking, “Why me? Why him? Why? Why?”
and only the wind answers, the wind
and the tall darkness;
because we begin and end
in that darkness-this life,
which we didn’t want and never asked for,
is, at least for a time, a sort of answer;
is, for a time, a sort of reason;
is, right now, the only reason
to holler a greeting at the sun,
grab our loneliness with both hands
and waltz with it around the living room,
until our breath is gone and our heart aches
for love, for life, for all the dead.