Sunny Days Jack Marshall Poetry

local_library Sunny Days

by Jack Marshall

Published in Issue No. 133 ~ June, 2008

Midday as in late summer, though it’s barely

Early March, and with the velvety rustle of little

More than skin-and-bone-wings, a warbler

Wolf-whistles the blue loveliness above.

In Berkeley, the sidewalk outside the cafe is the color

Of the sky. I’m soaking up the sunshine, lapping

A latte, tasting the flakiest croissant au chocolat

In what may be my last meal toward the end

Of the era of unchecked power of the Western World,

While a cherry-sweet chirping in the trees is clearing

Throats of winter. Today, throats are better off

In Berkeley than in Baghdad,

Where in one form or another heat hits

Like a stroke, even where a car-roadside-or-human

Bomb has not. There are so many

Sunny days for Death in Baghdad.

The sky above here, as there, though limitless

Beneath which we pray not to suffer

What is made with so much space

To suffer in, is not big enough for me

To feel what a mother must feel

On the street as she turns on her heel

At the sound of danger to her children;

Or before sending one out

For the day’s bread, knowing it could cost

The life of one who breathed

In, through, out of you.

Just this morning, taking a hot shower, I heard,

“This is as close as you will get to being with

Your mother again,” and for a second forgot

What dimension I would step out into.

Fast fatiguing, fitful sleeping,

Urgent peeing, eyesight dimming,

Are not good omens for hope,

Since all our hopes suppose

We’ll live them healthy.

Instead, a person across the sea

Nightly crumbles before our eyes,

Laying his head like a heart in a vise

For the handler’s pleasure.

The weight of multitudes and their gods:

I hate the weight of the gods

Of multitudes, but love heaven’s

Silken silence leaving no trail

But sunset’s crimsoning sail.

Light dims; cats doze; birds start up their din.

This is the hour I like best, which slides

Slow as a veil over a ravishing creature’s thigh,

Who will ravish again tomorrow.

Family and self-preservation aside, my worst fear

In the doomsday scenarios I’m given to lately

Is a quake, nuclear, or terrorist attack,

In which my seven cats scatter

To the four winds; creatures so high-strung,

And still, they’re lordly and lethal at once,

Yet whose squinting eyes pain makes

Even the kitten’s frightened face shrunken, old.

Where to, then, who have never known anywhere

But home? First, let me sweep the stones

From their path, and pray their killing

Skills thrive on living smells in the grass.

For us, there’s the astronomical

Luck in the starlight not stopping.

Smoking Gun

As a body in the rain will forget it’s dust

(Forget it, if you’re in Baghdad; dust, there,

Forgets the body was ever wet),

And summer days trail grains of sugar

Jains sprinkle on the ground for the ants,

Now September rays contract green days

To gray, as the war’s shrill whistle blows

Children at play outside of earshot, away.

In the house that is half

Winter Palace, half

Heart of darkness, the destruction

That passes for creation stirs him

More than the mistress he does not have,

More than the wife he does. Outspread

Hands against his chest are a mesh of

Body armor against being born.

Outwardly writing, inwardly yelling,

I may be mining for meanings that were never meant.

As is my way, my oxygen is cursing:

I’m breathing and cursing, cursing

And choking (though I have stopped smoking!)

I curse the day the bush gave

Partial birth to body parts – wormy

Lips, simian sneer. I waste a curse on

Breath busy having other people dying.

From outer space, the globe’s

Swirling blue mouth

Is a smoking gun.

Aliens beware.


There is a glacier, grown slowly as hair,

dissolving faster than our thoughts

run past. There is one’s self, close

to being absent at any moment, and all

of us under a sign in an unknown season

we know for certain we’ll be dying,

when loved ones will vanish, and we

unable to hold or kiss or ever miss them again.

Besides warming, there’s the double whammy

of global dimming: obstructed solar rays

the red rim on the blackening tin twilight is riding,

like the slowed down sweeping of a grain

of glucose firing through the brain, the way

memory comes from, goes into, and through

what we feel, and becomes the real;

like the past, inventing itself in the last second

I keep coming back to the places that keep

coming from the sunset I am a student of

at my desk, where every seat is a front-row seat;

the vast red vapor trail erasing the horizon

against which time narrows and place deepens

in the clarity of outline, in the last light.

I am a student of sinking that lasts

seconds, and of which I am a part, and

do not follow. The longer I fail, the longer

I live. To live, I fail; I fail, and live

in the furrows of feelings that live

in the places we lived in, empty now

of us and what we did there,

with failing faith, failed friends, in moments

that were loved, in hours that weren’t.

account_box More About

Jack Marshall has published twelve books, of which Sesame (Coffee House Press, 1993), was awarded the PEN Center West Award, a Pushcart Prize, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Two other books, Arriving on the Playing Fields of Paradise (Jazz Pr., 1984), and Gorgeous Chaos: New & Selected Poems, 1965-2001 (Coffee House Press, 2002), each won a Bay Area Book Reviewers Award. A collection of new poems, The Steel Veil, will be published by Coffee House Press in Fall, 2008.