Marcus Myers and the long goodbye
Updated: Mar 15, 2019
The Next Day Opened Curious Windows
The morning after she dismantles us, we walk the chilled shadows that sweep last night from her cobblestone streets. I’m uprooted, raw, a potted plant she elbowed
off her balcony. At the diner counter, we eat our breakfasts like a couple of mutes. She repeats what she said last night, after whiskey let her pity undress us a final time. Why
not make the best of a terrible situation? Her kind tone aligns with her eyes again, making me long for our emails, back to the soft science of our silences, our weird fetish
for distance the last real thing we share. Before the weight of our thing overtook us, we undressed. Before the 1,208 miles between our cities exerted their pull. She smiles, cleans
her plate with her roll. With knife and fork, I pierce my yolks, letting one yellow compartment weep unto the other.
After breakfast she tours me, stranded, through the Grand City,
two days before my departure. She points to monuments and markers. She says, There’s the park where sweet Whitman held the soldier’s hands while doctors sawed away their broken limbs. She speaks
as if she didn’t break us to pieces last night. I wonder if she enjoys it. Maybe some pleasure in the spectacle of a man and woman saying goodbye. She takes us to The Museum of the Monstrous.
Distensions, protuberances, poxes encased in early 19th century mahogany by the doctors who triumphed over a body’s excesses. A giant man and his tiny sidekick,
a skeletal asymmetry unveiled to headshakes, slack mouths. Categories of objects swallowed and removed: a hammer, wooden dentures, shoehorns,
a golden spoon. An assassin’s thorax. A president’s tumor. A case of trephined skulls almost blinking as we turn away from them. A boy bowing two
heads in his watery sanctum, his eyelids
so thin and delicate he might look up any year now from his long prayer. Our fleet faces transposed,
our looking out and in from these curious windows. Flashes of her smile taking flight below the ridge of my brow. I need to leave some of us here in these rooms.
Marcus Myers is a poet on the move. Persistent, diligent. He's an early morning man of routine. Maybe that's because he's a teacher; maybe it's due to his being a father. Whatever the case, his poems are being picked up. The one above landed in Hunger Mountain recently, a great journal.
Marcus Myers is a personal friend. I met him through my wife, Joni Lee. Both attended the MFA program at the University of Missouri, Kansas City.
My friendship with Marcus was a slow burn; it took us some years to trust each other, but now the friendship is central to my life. As for his poetry, it too is a slow burn. Marcus is currently experimenting with shorter forms, but his natural inclination is toward the longer poem and he often takes a discursive, narrative approach.
The above poem, however, is more imagistic than some of his other work; that's why it caught my eye. Taking a look at the structure of it, I appreciate how Marcus challenges his natural narrative abilities with at times aggressive line breaks that force the "plot" to work in more than one direction.
"[O]ff her balcony. At the diner counter, / we eat our breakfasts like a couple / of mutes." If you read this as is, respecting each line, it could seem the couple fell from the balcony to the diner and finds themselves eating breakfast as a couple. How nice, how romantic. But then the thought completes: "of mutes." Ah yes. The reminder. Marcus' poems are full of such moments: flights of whimsy brought low by reality.
What I am describing in this poem, this jarring awakening effected by the breaks, would be result in (end in) irony in a less thoughtful poet's work. Here, I'm not sure. Marcus surely is, as we all are, steeped in the gestures of irony, but he often avoids irony just when another poet might apply it because the scenes he references are truly lived and thus meant. They are lived through and thus often include a refreshing bit of vulnerability. So, stepping back and returning to the idea of structure (lines), the surprise effected via these breaks is genuine.
What is also genuine is the feeling, a la the Mütter Museum ("The Museum of the Monstrous"), that the speaker too might become trapped in a specimen jar of his if he doesn't abandon the actors in the scene, and soon. Leave the love interest, sure, that is absolutely implied. And the "things" in the jars, yes. Having been to the museum myself I can say that a desire to flee remains with you the entire visit. But the speaker must also leave behind the version of himself that loved the other as well, must he not? How else do we carry on when we love someone who does not love us back? We cleave something off our self, and we escape as something else. Lessened? Maybe. But who knows what will grow from the cut.
There's all this in Marcus' poems, and more. Check him out.
Poem originally published online at Hunger Mountain.