Mark Weiss: 'Different Stories' from 'As Luck Would Have It'

[The following is from Mark Weiss’s long awaited & very welcome new book, As Luck Would Have It, from Shearsman Books in the UK.  Comments by Ron Silliman & Peter Manson appear beneath the poems – a further tribute to Weiss’s presence & prowess in a new American poetry & poetics.]




The man who lives in boring times

bucket by bucket moves a mountain.


Wedded to the trajectory,

a collection of shattered lenses,

a matrix of rituals.


Man, or machete.

A catalogue of expectations.

Cutlass, for instance,

the brute violence of the toolshed

become a scimitar in the hands of pirates.



On the subway platform the girl sways

to invisible music.

Maybe she’s gone to the islands.


Different stories.

I knew a girl whose childhood

was her mother’s experiment

in elective surgeries to make her

“beautiful,” new nose, new eyelids,

as the world sees it.

Except that she’d refused the last experiment.

A different story. And what became

of all that perfection,

that one defiance,

that vote for symmetry.



Failure to make circles.


Old age, as the young man assured me,

is a state of mind.


In the order of things

there will be fire.


Ownership of islands will be swept by the sound

and all these wetlands.


This has been home

and this has been home

and this has been home.

Much of what you plan for

won’t happen, and what does

you’ll be unprepared for.


Following beasts,

elk and elephant providing wisdom.

“Where grass is good

there will be meat.”

“Salt is aggressive

and rises to water.”




and mystery

in the English

idiom, math

and mastery

in the physics of war.



A nice day,

flaxen girl in flat sandals licks

a cone of white ice cream

and strides through the park.


Strides through the park in flat sandals

licking a cone of white ice cream.

So nice a day. She eats

white ice cream.


Oh custard.

Oh sugarplum.



A Mayan woman with her Mayan children

at the Delacort fountain.

Hard to imagine a beauty more divorced

from that belle époque fragility, she

recalling blood and viscera.

But her children

will speak the local dialect.



A tendency to swallow whole when excited

(a tendency to excitement)

but masticate, grind,

that the chestnut not

become the death of you. Chew

as if your life

depended on it.

Time enough for the visible world

beyond the restaurant.



In his will he endowed a fund

to feed a homeless person once a year

the finest, most expensive,

and record

the recipient’s despair




Gleaning the last of an insufficient harvest, he

chops down the final bit of scrub so that his child

will have warm food. Who knows

what luck might bring

to keep them for another day.


First worry,

then despair.


Maybe the last

of insect or mammal

will descend upon them.


Where blond means enough to eat

and brunette not so much.



So it turns out

that we’re not the answer

to the dreams of centuries.


Lope of the hunter from field to forest.


“We have adapted wheat to grow on clouds

and grain to fall like rain.”

Laughed, then died, and the living

guess at the joke.



* * *



“This is a barefoot poetry, almost in the very oldest Asian sense of that phrase, a poetry of voice & body that recognizes that even body-language has accents, which surely it does. The eye is keen, the humor self-deprecating. Mark Weiss has reached that point on life’s mesa where forgiveness (to oneself as well as others) may well be the most important of gestures. A book to make you glad to be in the world.”
—Ron Silliman


“From point and line to jetplane, ‘The line articulated / so as to express volume’. In As Luck Would Have It, Mark Weiss plots the trajectory of a life lived between moments relished by the hungriest eye in the language. A rueful, funny and tolerant take on the self allows the wide world in, always in search of the strangeness in seemingly-familiar things, and on guard against the human capacity to dehumanise (April always was the cruellest kid). It’s a trip worth taking, where every flight is a kind of homecoming, the darkness seasoned with sauce enough to carry us through.” 
—Peter Manson


[Order from the usual suspects, on both sides of the Atlantic, or from]