I know a great writer

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I know a great writer
but you don’t
her greatness is planted
in not knowing, not
thinking she is great
and I know she is
a great writer
but she doesn’t and
she writes anyway
and I write but
I try not to think of
my standing
my standing over
or standing under the
writing of other writers
and I stand up
and I think of the words
and the words I don’t know
but that great writer writes
knowing nothing of her greatness
and I write but
I stand and go outside
taking off my shirt to let the sun
soak in
and I think of her greatness
and not my own
and she doesn’t
think of me

lazy day with nothing to say

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

lazy day with
nothing to say

the sun soaks
sludge bilks’ thoughts
mudslides smooth
peaks and valleys
to a single plateau

my mind, the sun, un-seeable
a walnut dazed
windows glazed in
snow buried, re:
whites, grays, haze
Trieved to a
Saint slobbering Bernard

Cocoa steams
streams magma flings
in loosening dreams
through the windows
of the sun, sloths
in heat buildup speed
and spew their sperm
soaked thoughts:

slow swimming sludge
obsidian’s cakes tectonics
quake meridians plates

lazy day with
nothing to say

And Paul

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

And Paul
I love you
brother

we want to see beauty
and we’re the same
with different words
so I choose carefully

we met in a circle
sharing our pain
and I could see it
and you could see it
thorns

through cigarettes
and ping pong
cups of pills
we saw the things
that broke us
crystalline

love
family
friends
structure
authority
time not ours
bills
regrets
love
being alone

nothing so abstract
nothing faceless

we graduated
from beeping hallways
and single file lines
to check-ins and check-outs
and broken curfew fines

And we finished our time
maybe got perspective
I went back to work
you went back
to the gatehouse

Then you had a kid
and I got married
we spoke on the phone
about all under which
we were buried

You called
now and then
from the road
I called
once and again
from my home

The kid started school
I got divorced
life felt so cruel
you fell out
and stayed at my house

And we laughed at the news
when we started to drink
and we cried in our shoes
when our egos would shrink

And I had to remind you
kitchen knives were for food

and blood
is too close to the surface
in all of us

And I remembered
how I used to be
and we both agreed
that you should leave

And for years
before nights were done
we talked about
beauty
and you said
we’re the same
and I agreed
but I want to see
the beauty

and Paul
there’s no beauty
in the bottle
we’ve both checked

and Paul
beauty is pain
because we feel it

Until I get to later

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I’ll die of exhaustion
tired of being alone
maybe head to Austin
forget to bring my phone

Throw on grandpa’s sweater
we had the same frame
drive until I wanna stop
look for something tame

No clinking brick to weigh me down
to wonder if to smile or frown
just stop for gas in dying towns
give knowing nods to wayward clowns

Stop by the road and find a tree
jot down the words, say poetry
throw my pens and pages in the back
drive off and think of what they lack

Distract away
her ringing words
“I’ll call you later”
later
later
later
later
later
later

And I’ll keep driving
until I get to later

Light’s Fingers

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Light’s fingers touch in darkness stains
Colors froth through milky grains
Yellows yawp barbaric fire
Oranges howl of hell’s empire
though windows through the blackness break
no fingers lunge for lonely’s ache
My Adam’s hands, these gnarled tines
quaking reach to grasp what shines
that curdling plea of palm and nail
yet, no light hushes lonely’s wail

Please

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Please
Don’t take the pills
Changing chemistries
Raising new ills

Those dark shadows
Swirling

Let them feed
Through words
To paper eaters
Devouring

Let them loose
Through color
To open windowed souls
Cowering

Let them twirl
Not suppress
Give them life
Beyond the chest

Let them powder
Through noise
To wax drums
Quivering

Let them dance
Through monologues
To cymbal-ed monkeys
Chattering

Please
Don’t take the remedies
Blessing new enemies
Depressing heart break

Those dark shadows
Swirling

And I want to be the king of my castle

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

And I want to be the king of my castle
And I feel like a pauper in my home
And I need to be master of my domain
And I believe no man should be alone

And I want to flit about on empty floors
And I feel the scream of doubt that clogs my pores
And I need cold water to wake me up
And I believe no answers are found in a cup

And I want my friends to know I am here
And I feel my family hold on to a tear
And I need a fresh face without a mask
And I believe no answers to questions they ask

And I want to find words that aren’t in a book
And I feel too much pain will allow me to look
and I need a new name to reflect all these changes
And I believe no pen is worthy of these exchanges

It was the times

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

It was the times
I teased too hard
And
It was the time
After sex
I asked a stupid question
And
It was the time
Before intimacy
I asked a stupid question
And
it was the time
I drove to you
Drunk
And
It was the time
I came over
from the night before
Still stinking of booze
And
It was the times
I went out
“to catch a slice of life”
I said
And
It was the time
At the urgent care parking lot
I shared a cig
With another waiting for his girl
And
It was the times
I couldn’t express
But I wanted to be alone
And
I walked past you
To take out the trash
As if another wall
And
And there is more
And
I write them out
So plainly
Too quickly
And
I feel them
Like paper
cuts

Youthful Beauty

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Youthful Beaty
nods and smiles
at graying experience
the coolness of
sweaters
Jackets
shirts
Sagging in all the right places
Betrays
The pursuit of success
Cleavage shines and rings
skirts high tail
chandelier leggings
locked eyes
loose legs

Meanwhile

Armies of
Scabbed hands
bruised arms
oxygen tanks
vet hats
social security cheques
keep the boat
Floating

The pianist’s fingers bleed
for the raised voice
recognition
of barfly’s and
passersby

Five claps for the piano man
and I write on torn
sheets of a legal pad
trying to understand what I’m doing

I tried to bet the ponies

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I tried to bet the ponies
Like Bukowski
But my math is atrocious

I tried drinking
Like Hemingway
But the loneliness was unbearable

I tried writing
Like Joyce, Miller and Burroughs
But my mind is too chaotic

I tried meditating
Like Cheever
But there’s too much fight in my chest

I tried uppers and downers
Like Thompson
But clarity was elusive

I tried
I’ll try

Forced words

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Forced words
The thing won’t come
The thing won’t happen
Worse
I don’t know what thing is

Forced words
At a casino
Between sweepers
Smokers
Losers
chirps
Winners
Chimes
Losers

Forced words
Because
That fight
in my chest
crawls down
to my hands

it’s shit
the feeling
it’s shit
the forced words

A train not even crashing
No explosion
Just quietly retiring
Off the tracks

If you’re lucky enough

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

If you’re lucky enough
You’ll fly to the moon
Through blue flame eyes
Glowing cross the table
And you’ll hear
Louis Armstrong’s growling timbre
I’m in heaven, I’m in heaven.

And if you pay attention
Sinatra will croon
between your ears
I thought of quitting, baby
but my heart just ain’t gonna buy it
and you’ll float over the moon
aiming for those sapphire eyes
twinkling across the table

And if you’re lucky enough
time will stop
and you’ll realize there is only
what is in front of you
and like melting butter
Irma Thomas will drip
in your ears
Anyone who knows what love is
will understand

And if you let yourself go
you’ll bloom in a shimmering galaxy
of golden hair
and Minnie Riperton’s soft melody
will patter in your ear
Kiss my petals
and weave me through a dream

And if you’re lucky enough
you’ll stand still
tethered by a kiss
in a Stater Brother’s parking lot
while the world spins
your body will buzz and hum
and you’ll hold your own song

And if you hold on to it
you’ll write about it
filling pages
with a universe of words
you’ll run out of ink
you’ll run out of words
but those azure eyes
will forever be empyreal

And it’s in my chest

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

And it’s in my chest
And I think about Blanca
And I think about me
And I think about the dogs
And I never start from the beginning
And the monologue never stops
And I’m trying to fall asleep
And I fall into another line
And I stay awake
And I want to be a better man
And I don’t know what that means
And I keep pushing keys
And my hands grab for tools
And my palms tingle
And every line starts to continue
And I hate it
And I love to hate it
And it’s cliché
And I recognize it is cliché
And I keep pressing down
And I think of a pianist
And I want to make music
And I hate the things my fingers leave
And I make noise
And I clang
And I bang
And I push
And every line starts the same
And I try to scrape the fever
On keys
On paper
On pens
On receipts
On napkins
On envelopes
And it leaves a residue
And I read it
And you read it
And it stains

The sky is mottled with pregnant clouds

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

The sky is mottled with pregnant clouds
Contractions of wind huff harder and harder
Trees protest throwing down leaves
And still I stay outside

A cricket plays a solo
A neighbor laughs
My hair blows over my eyes
And still I stay outside

The cup of tea has lost its steam
My skin tightens into untouched dunes
My fingers tighten while they tap
And still I stay outside

Bukowski’s liquor breath escapes his jowls
Love is a Dog from Hell flutters and howls
My little dog scurries from door to lap
And still I stay outside

Tomorrow I leave on a road trip

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Tomorrow I leave on a road trip
With my dad

We’ve been to
North Carolina
New York
Just the two of us

In NC
We saw all the green
From a Mustang convertible
Watched Eddie Murphy on screen
Took a dip in a mountain stream
Dad worked in the next room
I saw porn for the first time
I was still a single digit

In NY
We saw mountains of glass and steel
From taxi cabs and walks
Viewed works of art
Ate well
Dad went to a conference
I crossed the Brooklyn bridge
and smoked
I was in my early 20’s

I’m 35
We know each other’s vices
We’re driving to the deserts of the Midwest
We’ll see strip malls
gas stations
fast food
On our way to beauty

I’ll grab my watch
And
Hold its hands