Three Poems

By Mark J. Mitchell

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Art Lesson

You take a step into the Chinese scroll
That used to be San Francisco. A gray
Wall over a grayer bay and some small holes
Punched by bridges, barges, hints of mountain
Or hill, prison to your right as views unroll,
A little worn at the curled edges. Stray
Ribbons of fog float through clouds. It’s not cold—
It should be—but when surprise runoffs drain
From roofs, you shiver. You seek a dry way
To climb down this slope, enter the picture,
But give up. Damp shoes are the price you pay
To beauty. Someone is out there, you’re sure—

No dark beauty out of movies—no, it’s
A missed dream tugging at you. Or you read
Something once—three old men, a cat, some mist,
Maybe cranes or swans. It all gets muddled
While you sketch a path, trying not to slip
While trying to recall—some words unsaid,
A mantra dropped near your keys when you left.
You were in a hurry—you had to head
Over this hill and you need to be—
Somewhere. You’re not sure why now. It’s all fled
Your brain. This open scroll is all you see.

(From the Tomb of the Count of Burgundy)

His book, wrapped in cloth, drags
Down his right hand, holds it
Still as the rock it is.

A cowl shadows his face—
Though that was carved—shaped just
To hide in this white shade.

His left hand clutches cloth,
Precise disarray falls
From his feet to his face—

Cool stone folds, white with tears
Shed beneath a real corpse
Constantly. His shoulders

Can’t vibrate. This grief can’t
Breathe. His sorrow’s frozen.
This mourning is eternal.

Night Sweat

While waiting for a moon
That will not rise tonight,
Animals you’ve forgotten
Circle your heart.

They are not symbolic
Accusation. They aren’t fiction.
They are the true history
Of your blood: Their growls
And barks follow you every day.

It’s only on a shortening night,
Like this one, when the moon is dark,
That your flesh is able
To hear them.

Mark J. Mitchell