Mark Weiss: 2 sections from the poem A Suite of Dances

  Mark Weiss

  2 sections, from the poem
  A Suite of Dances

  JPR 08

  Section I: Ghost Dance


Of the standard figures
a thing of beauty.

An index to secrets.
Her own velocity makes the wind.

When I was a boy I’d run
to shining seas
and back again.
The multiple

What do you say to cosmetic innocence?

A shining sea.
The felled tree melted
into the hill’s contours.

I measure height in floors, distance in blocks
and length and depth in thumbs, fingers,
the king’s penis and the queen’s vagina.

Like a beast in a cage.
Like any snake,
I scavenge eggs.

And sings,
“With fame will come
release from pain.”
Prey to predator or hunger
on the big rock candy mountain.

Sin a speck, a
It’s the wolf’s hunger
saves the world,
satiety that ends it.

After three days rose,
the scent impeccable.

I ordered sin, and the flesh of kings
committed fish in the reign of surf’n’turf.

of hands
lost its elasticity.

Your hands’ grace, the smooth
musculature from wrist to thumb.

To act
upon the world.
Maybe the message is that those savages
so loved life that death and done with
needed an explanation.

Through no fault of their own they could own to.

viene a caballo.
viene cabalgando.

come at a run.
come galloping.

Into the

cap hap tap map
never came back.

That emptying
become as destiny.


the story of the folk: for
they came, went,
no end of tests and triumphs,
food forbidden or dangerous,
sacred embers — a continuity of fire, a
of cheese. Say cheese, and picture the
amidst its heirlooms, left a name to
      to be named for.

Deserts     forests     oceans     rivers

Coyote returns
to a celebration.

She was always excited,
one would think,
painted so.

Someone has painted this and called it luxury.
Beyond, above the undulant course of the first ridge,
high glaciers as distant as the moon.
Here one could imagine
nothing to quest for.

To keep the world suspended
to the final word, so,
beyond gravity.
Among luftmenschen.

Somewhere between garnet and pinot noir,
flowing ad libidum, the sea in storm,
turbid as wine


Head to toe hones like a blade and glows
while the knife is sharp.

A paucity of words for the character of light.

Toes pointed.
The way her feet
address the ground.

In a dark place
varieties of darkness.

I went down to the nut-trees
to see the new growth
of the blossoming vines
and the pomegranates in

      Walnuts almonds

      “Imagine you saw
a field
      all silver-white.”

In this light.

At this moment in this light
and perhaps no other
the sheen to the west on the leaves and
metallic, the river
silver and the cliffs beyond
pillowy with trees.

What I took to be water was a blue cloth.

“The noxious oil of poison ivy
does give its leaves
a certain chic.”

New dog, and a general
sniffing of asses. Ruff ruff.

Invented onion rings,
this buckaroo.


Migratory chickens
hunt and peck their way across
              the landscape.

Why am I dancing, the chicken
asks, why this

Pliant pliable, sways, per

Sometimes extraordinary things.
Like a reed whipped back
and returned.
Sprung and reset,

Slow rivers.
Flat country.

The appearance of whatever’s valued in the absence
              of intent.

The redhead dances.
Hopscotch! to land
en pointe one square
to another wins
the game racks up
the numbers.

The only one who knows the story.

The eternal ghost dance.
So many creatures now to recover. Sow
dragon teeth, teeth of bison, skin of toad,
              crimson feather.

Across an expanse of seagrass
a man my size tars a roof. He stops
for water. We watch each other.
Me on the deck above the marsh.
Arguments about the survival of the working class
              and what that means
evaporate in the heat. It’s simple: those who do,
and those they do it for.

Riding the only available road to the hinterland,
              dark waterfalls,
all manner of beast.

Terror of night in the forest.

At tideline, testing and rejecting words,
I know myself for a near certainty
alone among those not my kind.

Weary forwandred.

Breeze ruffles the understory.
Nothing but that bends with the wind.



“There’s a young man that I know.”
Survival of the ballad as a dream of a
              simpler life.
Selection as dumbing-down:
suspend criteria, and the daily facts
attack as if the wagons were circled
              and it’s all
Indians, we like to say, so much
at a discount.

Make amends to Mother Kali.

If there’s a hole
kiss it.

A perfect fierceness here.

A critique of pure farming.

Snow White as the Virgin,
as the higher gnome.

Folk dance / ghost dance.

Top of the morning
top of the town
bog down.

Grow some gorse for the queen of heaven.

Both to and frowardness a nest of
who? who? An owl?
Come home to roost.

What follows? Itch
too deep to scratch.
Itchery as the eighth vice.
Cold and wet for the fun of it.
Want! Wait! Let her come to me!
And thinks of himself as stalker.

They chirp they chirp
and a man can’t sleep
got you by the tail.


Father and daughter.
She’s in a trance, but a tug
pulls her back from the traffic.
Mother and son.
She watches, poised with a napkin, as
              he carries
the soup from bowl to mouth.

Rapt as prey and predator.

Sometimes the young
are spit and snot.

“Someone put his hand in your pants girl
you walk around so.”

He barely noticed the mole that would kill him

Sly cat
has no use for me. Others
drop food on purpose or by chance,
but not me.

Here where I speak no language
I’ve taken to mouthing my words like the deaf
as when I raise two fingers, meaning
“two cimit,” and the girl in the red scarf of the most devout
feels for the proper squeeze, raises her finger. “One,” and says,
and smiles.


On a gray day the Japanese girl
poses by the seawall, the still
sea behind her.

Think nothing.
Remember nothing.

Tourism gives way to a sense of
that stones piled on stones will
But surely they knew this
in a place plagued by lions
and the whims of gods.
Then as now old women slept on the
all that they own their pillow.

This grove sacred to cypress and
fragments of ceramic and stone.
It’s not bright angel feet that worry
singing to whatever deity.

The slender girl
appears to float barefoot —
what a sucker
I’ve always been — and lives
on air, luftweiblich. After all,
we want to be free of gravity,
gravitas, gravid, pregnant
as we all are. It’s a machine
for ageing, the loss
within the larger war. I pluck a fig
from another’s tree.
Where nobody’s ever known.

After the flood it was olives,
cured in the tide
and carried by birds.

The passage of mind through matter.

Here, where nobody speaks her tongue,
the ageing tourist talks to flowers.

Feeding the bear for appeasement.


He’s delighted that she talks to cats.
He imagines her cat-like with small
              white feet
and a weightless leap.

But cats become tiresome
and he shoos it away.

Cat licks its ass. Breakfast
with a reminder of dinner.
In the world as it’s become,
those who serve starve.

Cat plays at mouse.

Unfortunate cartilage
that burnt the topless towers.

Over the water the singing of many voices.
A fisherman’s radio — but the chorus
had seemed heroic.

I’m singing “Walkin to New Orleans” as I enter
              Troy, Oh Homer,
here at the origin, in the great dissonance.

The circle in the quadrature.
Vitruvian man.

Like featherless chicks
they were fed by birds.

The bird of peace
nonetheless edible.

Prehensile     prebucal
grabs and bites, comes forth
like a hummingbird’s tongue.

Motu perpetuo of tiles,
a study of the distribution of weight, a space
of serious delight. Symmetry become
the natural order, world
and garden. “There is a rule, then.”

“Name it.”

“2 cows = pig.”
An abstract finger.
Many arguments.

Hard to know what she’s thinking without the music.

I am the lord or lords of disorder.

Hunger     says the cat
brings down the bird

Each garment a history
for those with food and home.

Bought it.
And mosquitoes rejoice.

The disappearance of figure into ground a result of experience
              unmediated by inhibition — that all phenomena are equal,
              absent the interests peculiar to the moment
              and the observer.

The world devoid of sentiment or choice, the actual outside
              ourselves, as best we can imagine it, become a sort of unnavigable
              hallucination. Which is to say, if you can’t reduce it to a map
              and a path you can’t walk it.

Champêtre. Champing at the bit.

Pecks its way through grass
rich with the ooze of slugs.

I am he
who walked
from tree to tree,
tore off shreds of cloth
to mark a passage.

“Where else have you found this degree of order?”

Put it behind me. Wind’s in the sail and the car
lurches with impatience. What freedom
compares to a tank of gas?
As if trimmed
its tassels. Flew,

Liquid grace.

Soars downwards,
wings vertical,
flap flap.

The good shepherd
saves his flock
then shears and eats it.

As in: they say
he gave his life for the bank.
And here’s a watch, something to leave the grandkids,
inscribed with our gratitude.

Whose mother
was necessity.

Think of it as the tug of time and gravity.
All things tend downwards or upwards.

No flies alack on Renfrew Street.

Did I hang my coat in the window as a form of ornament?

Heel and toe heel and toe.

A life or a knife.

As the small pebble determines the river’s course.

Strive for the moment
when the ball’s
at apogee.

Wull nobody rescue this boat,

The Order of Pecking
whose shield is a rooster.


So much to smell
So little nose.

The guideposts of a landscape,
that rise a hill,
those trees a forest, that hedgerow
So, seaward, and hinterland,
a hill,
houses, water.

Supposing that the order of things orders the life,
I tried an experiment.

My god hungers for the deaths of kings,
he thought.

The grand luxe version of a girl in crinolines.


The Gaddarene swineherd
chases his children’s fortune.
“Oy vey oy vey” he cries.

that of that
was thus.

Losing the path you discover snow.
The sound of a bell.

The poem as a bell enclosing sound.

The business of monkeys.

A man and a maid in fallen leaves.

A schooled grace.
Kindness in the form of chocolate.

Trumpets     strumpets
how the mouth mouths it.


Section X: Manchester Train


The house is a hole in the ground, its walls
another hole, where elsewhere
was a hole or a hill.

To create a language assume language.

Here where the hills are shells,
a mine shaft at the peak suggests a castle and a deep
intrusion, a shell
beneath the weight of us.

A hill a fell
could fail

One field below,
a pair of horses, no less
nostalgia than the dress
of the girl in the seat across, lost
in her ipod.

Here in the river a choice of white birds.

What does that pigeon seek that it keeps pace?

Edible conflicts.

Sits light on the landscape.

A herd of trees
a stand of cattle
a strand of corn.

Thunder of guns in the narrow vale, stuff
of newscasts and legends.
Where long-since use has left the land.

Finding time.
Making time.

The girl with the big banana.

Long after its clap
the bell resounds.

A bell remembered. And here
traffic, and the twitter of birds.


I shall become a tree
she thinks, and does.

In the crowded carriage
the startled eye
of a girl in polka dots.

The dance of “say goodbye.”

It’s toes
what carries it.
Clarity too a kind of poison.

Rubber chicken to the man of meat.
“The joke’s on you,”
it crows.

“Chickens crow, but crow’s
no chicken,”
he answers.

Summer’s boy swims through the air.

Here will begin the end of time,
like a watch gone passive or a sprung mattress.


Grew up
changed her name
cropped her hair.
but another wears her body.

Learns to appropriate a form of grace.

Or a kind of wakefulness
that could pass for patience.

What you found,
not what you thought to stalk.

“Their own history.” Whistle
wisp whisper wind.

Of absence a form.
A trade in fats and corsets.

A cheerful joke with cruel consequence.

Well-fed, the dog
lives with its constant denials.

This fragrant child has rotted in the sun.

The Good Shepherd
cares for the lamb
then skins and eats it.
The company of gods.


A day given to cloudbursts,
and two women on the train
dressed for the chances,
one in boots
the other sandals.


Where once the Iron Duke
slaughtered thousands and crushed
the hopes of millions
a boot by his name treads boggy
Nobody called him Welly then.


Robert Zipper
slayer of foreskins.

The hand become a rattle.

Better to crack a tooth on bone than stone.

We like our kings fat and our commoners skinny.


What goes up must go up
what goes down must go down.

What began as a cipher
became a language.

The trumpet
or something
shall sound
or may
the sureness     or maybe,
the bell
above trees
becomes the sky or threatens to.

Across the aisle,
in search of the one true version,
three women rehearse their stories.

Of those who walk,
four feet between tallest and shortest.
A topography that writhes and stutters,
passes for passage.

Grown into beauty
Grown into age.

Sings sweetly for coins in a hat.

Convenient increment
a buck buck twenty-five.

The burden of wealth:
two carts
of all his belongings.

Will, and

Her blue blue eyes.

A roll of the dice
a roll in the hay
synthesis at the phonemic level.
Let’s assume there’s a life worth talking about.


Bone on bone reshapes the body.

Islands of foam
skate towards the wave.

Bone on bone.

You     or another.

Bone on bone etc.

Lopeth down the dune like a young doe
Away from the clutter a summoning
of the very old. “I speak,” he says,
“in tongues
of men and ocean —

how many years
made verse on this very strand.”

A flash of legs
running, and the shadow of a gull runs
after, keens
like the sea.

From a toe can be made a thumb, from a thumb
a toe, from the air
a rasp.

Dead mouse dead mouse
cheese and honey
to appease your ghost.

I bit you.
Die now.

Threats from the children of darkness.

Is it the wind, or do the squirrels
send a message?

Dog with a stick
may dance
to the end of the leash.

US poet Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss’ most recent books are As Luck Would Have It (Shearsman Books, 2015) and his translation of Book of the Peony, by Gaspar Orozco (Shearsman Books, 2017).


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