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by Mark J. Mitchell




Color Translation


He changed colors to sound. With his guitar

at first, Then his mouth opened. Letters rose

towards a sky no longer blue. He knows

it has a name. He lost it to the stars


when he prayed to hear their words. They’re too far

away to make sense of tones but they showed

him changed colors, how to stroke his guitar—

first slow—an unkissed mouth. Opened letters rose


and formed definitions, His pen would scar

paper and wayward tints took off their clothes

just for him. Then he could write what they know

and you would feel them. You’d lower your guard,

change to the color of his cruel guitar.




a line, (a short blue one)



To An Old Tune


He forgave your forgiving him

with his last smile—sweetbitter, hard

as his lost tooth. Time called you both

and both answered, agile, abrupt.

You knew that he knew what comes now.


You pardon his past. This present

still stings—long silence and short stays

here. Hopeless hospital. Now

it keeps, unsaid. All your unfound

lore lost. Like love. Like his last breath.



a line, (a short blue one)





She took her sudden vow seriously,

setting the eggplant on top of a trash can.

It looked flat as an altar.


She bowed east, to the hill, then west,

towards another hill. South

at the vanishing bus, then north.


She left her brand new shoes

outside a perfectly red door.

She dropped her keys in the left shoe.


She smiled before sealing the room

behind her. Her last words are

“These are my last words.”




a line, (a short blue one)



Not Exactly A Villanelle


First picture standing stones, rough rocks, hand-hewn,

time-smoothed. Then the avenue they outline.

It’s real. Tonight. Under this waning moon.


Breathe in: Wild rosemary, twining vines

embrace the glyphs. Now listen: Far away

a song is fading. Walk forward: You’ll find


memories like marbles. Pick them up and play

a game with your past—personal, racial—

that you won’t lose or win (this is today


and true. A breeze off rocks tickles facial

nerves—dreams don’t do that). You know you can’t stay.

The path will vanish like so much moonshine,

leaving an itch, a match, an herb, a tune.




a line, (a short blue one)



Card Game


The Jack of Diamonds is wounded by dreams:

A silver moon whispers silver light

and his sword has moved from his left to right.

Asleep, his lips are burned by a black queen

whose kingly spouse is already in sight.


He knows he’ll suffer for his pasteboard sins

(Though chessboard bishops might grant him their grace).

He will always be thrilled by that dark face,

tortured by the club she carries. She wins

each trick, each hand. She keeps the moon in place.


The red knave’s troubles have only begun

because he’s trapped in the queen’s dream and her

visions hold more terror than his. She stirs

his fear and he comes to know what she’s won:

The Jack of Diamonds shines on her finger.




a line, (a blue one)


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