Mark Weiss: 'A Suite of Dances' III: Travelers Tales

Cows in the mire above slate water.


White, dappled

to the brown drop-off, sea,

clouds beyond,

and a burnish of sunlight

barely makes it.

And here’s a bay cuts in below stubble

on a ground of snow.

A town surrounding the walls of a roofless church.

Sun inscribes black lines in last year’s traces.


Inland the forestry has carpeted hills. Beyond,

rounded masses climb towards the Cairngorms.


Now the snow a barest flocking.

Brown, green, tawny, greener,

sodden with melt.

So many pearls in the furrows.


Needs of the present

intrusive as always.

Redhead, red with cold

in this heated carriage.


What he left us was the man he was.


Fried friable



Snow-dusted, reddened by sunset.


The wondrous machine begins to slip.


The goose that laid the ham and eggs.


Saved from the diadem by a gem-like flame, he stutters,

and the priest

will speak for him. Moshe

mashiach, mark

it well. So   given me

to save the people,

reduced to catalogue and warning,

as a world is raveled and rewoven.


Glipspring of the street-bound ballerina                     

alert as a doe at wood’s edge.


She had stood by the mirror half-asleep

and painted herself

into pure surprise.

There are always predators.


A curve leads to another.

Perpetuum mobile.


Suddenly a catalogue of noses.

The vocabulary of pleasure is fairly small.


The sense that system depends.

System as a decision of what to ignore, hence

easily ousted, as if,

as she said,

a deck of cards. “Just say it,

and it’s gone.”


Squeeze it hard enough

it could be anything.





Identified with fire,

as his ancestors came from the house of bread.


born in the manger. “One in the oven,”

they must have snickered,

another girl gone bad, slipped

it to her when she wasn’t watching.



Grit grip garroted

grit grop besotted

grit grape and rotted

knotted pitted throttled bottled

into the jar the oil the

essence. Or an arrow, from the burning bush,

smoke speaking, the smote rock leaking.


Wonders of mind subjected to artifice.


Her face in repose betrayed the sadness

she was unaware of, or just

her face in repose. Ask

her, if she could tell you.


Intimations of a complex process.

Cowboy boots in a no-horse town.

The music of a gorgon walking through flies.


Because each stone must have its master.

These weighty things in hand

as intimate proof of gravity,

a solace in the general downfall. “This,” it says,

“is your future. Find a way.”


The constant dance of hands.


And the wind calls me:




The child at rest

sings “nipple nipple”

over and over.


“Que caliente,”

he sings,

despite the cold.


Now blond on the hillside.

Last year she planted daffodils.


We never tire of the brain’s unraveling,

the god that fashioned

so quick to be gone.


Grow salt.


Amused by the dialect of the downtrodden.

“Aint they got rhythm.”


What-everyone-knows now lost

for want of telling.


One attempts to assemble the random scatter on the floor and fails

for lack of data, assuming an inherent order to be ex

cavated, the holes

dug, pulled out the sense of.


Let’s look to the easy comforts.





Let there be balm in Gilead. “Ouch!

Ouch!” Girls losing it in the cactus patch.





Front Street fronts and could run

forever. Forever

ends at a mountain or water where Front Street

ends. In the order of things.


Bank Street is a filthy alley,

its grime the sign of fires

when heat meant coal. Barrels

spill slops behind the restaurants.

Bank Street is behind

Front Street, and almost forgotten.

East to west the sky defines it.


Front Street is a row of buildings facing the tracks and cattle yards,

a great horizon to the south and the piss

of panicked cattle — something’s changed,

they moan,

and not for the better.


Here is there is everywhere.



Trained to chirp like birds.


“The milk of chickens will do you in.”


Flirting with a particular chaos.


Imagine a life or the planet’s life as the skin on a pan of milk.

We forget in the good times the anxiety of animals.

It’s the time-scale that’s changed,

and the skill at distancing.


A history of moving from here to there as if crossing a final river.


For a thousand years there will be none.

The time too limited to find new things to say.


This time the end of one’s time

may be the flood.

Glitter of sand as the wave withdraws,

half-circles, and salt become foam quivers,

sheds fingers in the breeze.


So, to survive the revelation of artifice.


[NOTE. Regarding Mark Weiss’s remarkable skills and insights, Ron Silliman wrote of an earlier volume: “This is a barefoot poetry, almost in the very oldest Asian sense of that phrase, a poetry of voice and 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.” And Weiss himself of the present venture: “I’ve joked before that my work isn’t so much composition by field as composition of field. A Suite of Dances might be composition by notebook. It’s an extension of the way I’ve worked for the past twenty-five years. Probably I’ve been reacting to an anxiety felt by translators, historians, and archaeologists in the absence of context. This is close to context in the absence of event. Though I hope that there’s something like an architecture, perhaps musical, holding it together. The title suggests, for me, at least, the baroque, when suites of dances were a major form, and my understanding of baroque art in all media as an attempt to experience the heterogeneity of event not as chaos but as something like a grand, encompassing chord. The selection above is part 3 of twenty-eight named parts, filling two hundred pages.”]