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.
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You sit, cigarette in hand, say
Hands folded primly in your lap, say
There is a mewling pain stuffed in your dark places.
Subsumed beneath the amniotic seas of your subconscious,
I watch you disown your one clean power,
I drop my eyes knowing you will not hear this twin pain,
You, in the back room, putting the kids to sleep,
Standing up, the mad professor zips his fly,
A hard ulcer of hatred forms in my guts.
Later, he will brag this to you,
soap opera fantasy carried like a teddy bear to you
he whines, rhyming to the rhythm of
I sit all night in a red blanket
Huddled in my blankets,
I go through the eye of the first blizzard.
Outside the Mayan city of Palenque, in the forest night,
I drift into sleep, but am awakened by
In the morning I roll my hammock and walk the Mayan city,
I return to the desert to watch the Equinox with Amazons,
I return as the last sloppy blizzard melts in the furrows.
Your daughter puts her small hands deliberately in an ash tray,
strumming the tortured lyre strung with your bleeding entrails.
In the drought summer you phone, say,
I am beaten purple by your words. . .
In the sharp autumn wind
A Sound of Moth Wings
Killing frost hit Friday night, October 13th,
My anger stirs at the first thrumming drone:
I tell the midwife I saw you momentarily,
The midwife holds me in her woman's arms,
panting into the rhythm
I cannot live this long, sad dying anymore,
The midwife holds the newborn high, covered in blood.
Inside the midwife's arms
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 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