Wizard Marks

I have retired now from the many jobs I had to serve my writing, one of my only two skills. My last job before retiring was as a VISTA Volunteer (Volunteers In Service To America), the best job I ever had. I worked in Hosmer Public Library raising money for materials and programming for three years. Thank you Sergeant Shriver, creator of this excellent opportunity as creator of VISTA.

Now I write exclusively on the internet with e-democracy, writing about issues which affect Minneapolis and Minnesota. However, I’m finally beginning work on stories of how I became who I have turned out to be. I’m glad I put in the time and effort learning to write in my native tongue. Nothing has made me happier than writing. I’m not entirely satisfied with the results, but I’m not crying in my beer either. Writing is like gardening, it’s a long-winded, never-ending journey. To read Wizard's extended bio click here.


You sit, cigarette in hand, say

"My husband keeps an adding machine beside our bed;
I have to fuck to its avuncular tune."

Hands folded primly in your lap, say

"I told him not to do that."

There is a mewling pain stuffed in your dark places.
You ignore it flatly.
Instead, say,

"I vowed whither thou goest...
till death..."

Subsumed beneath the amniotic seas of your subconscious,
the meaning of these beatings, these assaults on your
vagina, are denied.

I watch you disown your one clean power,
instead pushing humiliation up through your cervix
where its hard kernel grows like a tumor,
embarrassing hysterical pregnancy to nurture in a tiny,
unnamed salt sea.

I drop my eyes knowing you will not hear this twin pain,
growing in my womb.

Your husband
a few broken shadows ago,
raped me
in your living room
forcing my head into his bookcase,
forcing his penis into my mouth,
closing off the tissues of my soft palate
to destroy the nerves along my
primal synaptic paths.
I gag and choke.

You, in the back room, putting the kids to sleep,
never hear him shoot his alcohol-soaked slime
against the back of my throat.
I hear you hushing the girl into her nighty,
finding a bottle for the fat boy.

Standing up, the mad professor zips his fly,
says in a sing-song,

"You had some dues to pay.
If you're so damn smart,
what're you gonna do about this...

A hard ulcer of hatred forms in my guts.
I walk out of your house into the cold night
moving to my cabin against the wheat fields.

Later, he will brag this to you,

"She can't keep her hands off me,
she's jumping into my pants,
trying to steal me away, mommy,"

soap opera fantasy carried like a teddy bear to you
in the night.

"Will you be my mommy, wifey?
will you be my girl?
will you help me rape you, mommy,
like you have before?

he whines, rhyming to the rhythm of
beating after beating after beating.

I sit all night in a red blanket
feeding the steel-barreled belly of the stove;
feeding it another log, another humiliation.
The fire spurts, roars,
then cracks in panting contractions,
settles to a glowing menace, spitting at the rugs.

I don't want to kill him
but to peel his thick hide back
inch by slow inch
with my kitchen knife
and salt him down
like farm women salt the pork rind
dropping it in the hot fat for cracklins.
His nuts put on the table
as the Greeks still do in the mountains
while the castrated pig runs
squealing through the village
chased by screaming children
wielding sticks.

Huddled in my blankets,
I stare through hours to the cold fog morning.
The fetus gestates cell by by steady cell,
a grey bird builds her nest then flies south.


I go through the eye of the first blizzard.
I go and send you messages,
return address, center for battered women,
Amazon outpost on the edge of the Great Sonoran Desert.
The women weave a hammock of blessings for me on my way
into Mexico, into the jungles of Chiapis.

Outside the Mayan city of Palenque, in the forest night,
I clear dumbcane, diffenbachia, thorn palm,
make the circle,
string my net between two white-barked luminous trees.
The jaguar in the distance prowls,
weaving her power in the dark.

I drift into sleep, but am awakened by
screaming monkeys
swinging closer . . . closer . . .
Suddenly above, they roar down the great trees,
jaws wide,
long teeth flashing in the filtered moon.
Howling furies circle and scream
around and around the net.
Suspended in the weave,
hands over my belly,
I feel this terror and will myself to stillness.
Not blinking my fear, I stare it down.
The monkeys swing back to their path,
screaming into the distance.

In the morning I roll my hammock and walk the Mayan city,
climbing the Temple of Inscriptions.
Inside, through a trap door,
slick wet steps drop into the tomb.
At bottom a thick trapezoid stone opens into a low,
round cave, shaped like a loaf of bread.
A great yellow slab fills this hollow,
carved with the tree. . .
and the bird. . .
and the snake. . .
and the Maya,
drifting languid into the underworld.

I return to the desert to watch the Equinox with Amazons,
delighting in their chanting,

"In the beginning was the word. . ."

Spring and Summer

I return as the last sloppy blizzard melts in the furrows.
In the winter our ovum split, nurtured in different seas.
Perched tense on the sofa's edge, heavy shoulders rounded,
you proffer me your husband's I.Q., your daughter to watch after
--my womb stirs vaguely as
you proudly display the martyr's threadbare colors,
vestments for the Living Death Mass.

Our rapist, that alien zeus,
sends his worshipping handmaiden
singing his praises on a lyre fine-tuned in servitude.
Athena denies her mother, says,
"I was born entirely out of my daddy's head,"
(a foul pen that is).

Your daughter puts her small hands deliberately in an ash tray,
carefully prints her palms on my living room wall.
You rasp between clenched teeth,

Why don't you just have a baby and get it over with?"
You're nothing but a side-show,
you're nothing but a freak,
you're a snotty kind of victim
with a lotta cheek,"

strumming the tortured lyre strung with your bleeding entrails.

In the drought summer you phone, say,

"How dare you tell?
I don't want anyone to know."

I am beaten purple by your words. . . again.
The mad beast of carnage, feeding on your humiliation
becomes the singing myth--
Phallus Enthroned.

Don't use me for your grief, Woman:
I charge him with your beatings and our rapes!

In the sharp autumn wind
I pack my life into the bed of a truck.
Hard wind behind me, I push east slowly,
only daring a glance through the rear view mirror.
Shielding my tender belly with my back,
pushing the pain down tight,
I move my rituals toward thanksgiving.

"In the beginning was the word. . ."


A Sound of Moth Wings

Killing frost hit Friday night, October 13th,
two years now.
I hear by wifeline that you still sing me into the long-
enduring litany of the martyrs.
Another wife repeats the sad chant droning,

"mother most sorrowful. . .
mater most vulnerable. . .
martyr most violable. . ."

My anger stirs at the first thrumming drone:
time come to term, grown to the limits of my womb.

I tell the midwife I saw you momentarily,
your face closed and drawn, body sagging on your bound feet:
pain tight-clamped against yourself,
denied, cherished, accepted as your life.
In tears I hugged you while you held me an instant,

"I'm a little bit bitter,"

barely audible.

The midwife holds me in her woman's arms,
steadies me as I bear down.

"We denied the cabinets I built for her
denied the thousand dishes washed
denied the daughter tended through so many days
denied the nights of cigarettes and talk till dawn,

panting into the rhythm

"denied the cooking and the canning
denied my photos of the very pregnant her
denied us with her laughing, naked daughter
denied the years we spent learning work and laugh and
breathe together.

I cannot live this long, sad dying anymore,
watch the daughter's handprints cross the wall,
another generation of deny
in a tiny salt sea of love.

The midwife holds the newborn high, covered in blood.
Birthed into the bright room, I claim my own.

"I claim it all, all seven years,
I claim it all to patch this red crater wound.
I will own myself."

Inside the midwife's arms
I look out the window into her garden lush with the bright
harvest. A solemn peace shimmers in the crisp air.
This is the place of the Oldest of the Old:
the tree. . .
the bird. . .
the snake. . .
and the Maya drifting languid. . . .

"In the beginning was the word
and the word was Woman
and without her is made nothing that has been made."


I wrote these poems as letters to a friend who was bludgeoned and raped into submission by her violent fascist husband. I had loaded a gun and felt a grim satisfaction as the smooth shell clicked home in the barrel. As I aimed, I understood that fascism wins a convert if I decide who deserves death. Then, in small Minnesota towns, the police did not "interfere in domestics;" neither did friends, relatives, neighbors. Lowering that rifle was a painful moment in my life because I expected that my friend and her children would be murdered. Women are now exposing this cultural acceptance of fascism for what it is and are demanding changes to address it.

I wrote these poems to save my own life. They were a tool to organize my rage and to articulate it. I would name the crime, release the rage and keep a record, in the most forceful way I could, of the way in which fascism begins in the home, how it grows by geometric progression, and how we trade being dominated and brutalized by the bully in exchange for his empty promise that we will, as a consequence, be subjected to less pain.

I wrote these poems to expose the fascist and his ideology--the every day, home grown abuse of others. When we keep his secret, when we refuse to demand an accountability, we institutionalize fascism and weave it more firmly into the fabric of our lives. When we knuckle under to brutality we bear witness to its viability. When we agree to allow marriage and parenting to cover the refusal to grant each one human dignity, we are supporting a culture in which another holocaust is inevitable, in which slavery is justifiable, in which some must starve so that others may live in opulence, in which war is necessary. When we agree to keep the secret of fascism, we commit to the fundamental outrage.

Wizard Marks
Minneapolis, March 1984


Wizard Maureen Marks was born in Cincinnati 1943 to Elizabeth Ruth Marks Halpin and Vincent Paul Halpin, and raised in a WWII federal housing project called "English Woods." "It was a ghetto away from other neighborhoods, a ghetto in the woods," Mark says, and "because it was segregated, it was inhabited by hillbillies"— her people.

Cincinnati is the first major stop north of the Mason-Dixon Line along the Dixie Highway, the main migration route for hillbillies. In those days, federal projects did not allow tenants to paint the walls and no one was to plant flowers or vegetables. These strictures were more effective than anything else in cutting people off from their pasts, since they had always dug and planted, harvested and canned and dried. It made them lonely and disoriented and made the transition to the city harder and meaner. Women embroidered, putting their gardens on pillowcases and towels, hankies and tablecloths, blouses and baby bonnets. Treasures were small and portable; skills and feelings and memories were all of a piece and stitched into the fabric of life through these formalities and through geneologies and stories told while sewing and cooking.

"My mother, known as Essie, did beautiful embroidery. However, the women in the family early observed of me that 'she handles a needle like it was a hammer'. I was four when I decided to write."

At English Woods, Marks was taught to read and write by the "the good Sisters of St. Francis." Later, she attended Southern Illinois University where she "studented for too long and sometimes to no purpose."

In Minnesota, Marks helped organize the first toy-lending library in the state, and later worked for the Metropolitan Transit Commission, and, with her "familiar Morgan le Fey, feline," resides in south Minneapolis. "There is a big garden," she says.

Marks' experience as a bus driver has led to THIS IS NOT A REAL BUS, a collection of stories by and about transit workers. Marks is also working on a collection of essays titled SPEECHES NOBODY INVITED ME TO GIVE. Currently Wizard Marks is working on her memoir.

Copyright © 2010 Wizard Marks