a poetry e-zine










Mark Mitchell
Morning Exam
For Phoebe

She thinks these features don’t quite fit her face.
The news from her mirror offers small hope.
She should send them off to some other place.

She’s young, she knows. Maybe time will erase
her stark cheek or nose. Her eyes might elope,
she thinks. These flat features aren’t quite her face—

Not yet. She could run away. She’d escape
her own genes—leave them behind with no note.
She could hide them now, in another place

where no one will look. Where her laundry waits
for quarters, say. There’s that marathon tote,
she thinks, its handles aren’t quite right. Her face

glares back at her, glass hard. It needs a case
to protect innocents. With enough soap
she could send it away, no other place

wants it. It could vanish, leave no trace.
She’d be free from these bones. But just suppose,
she thinks, these features start to fit my face—
Could I call them back from that other place?


…es cadaver, es polva, es sombra, es nada.
—Sonnet 145, On Her Self-Portrait

…is corpse, is dust, is shadow, is nothing
you see or want to see. Your sketching hand
draws only what it knows: Light from a strand
of web tickling the breeze; dark welts, red stings
unseen parasites bestowed; torn paper
that once sheltered letters you almost read.
There’s no need to look again. Let the dead
bury their own. There’s nothing to take here
but dust. You may gather those words you left
under your cot and let the mirror fall
without breaking, but don’t look. There’s no next
now. Cover your paints. Put them in your small
basket. You must start to strike your own tent.
Leave this frame vacant on the folded wall.


She planted her sins
in concentric rings.

They sprouted opaque,
worn as roulette felt.

She couldn’t watch
all the circles as

they grew. They hid her
like a statue gone green.

Mark J. Mitchell studied writing at UC Santa Cruz under Raymond Carver, George Hitchcock and Barbara Hull. His work has appeared in various periodicals over the last thirty five years, as well as the anthologies Good Poems, American Places, Hunger Enough, Retail Woes aniline Drives. His chapbook, Three Visitors has recently been published by Negative Capability Press. Artifacts and Relics, another chapbook, is forthcoming from Folded Word and his novel, Knight Prisoner, was recently published by Vagabondage Press and a another novel, A Book of Lost Songs is coming soon from Wild Child Publishing. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the documentarian and filmmaker Joan Juster.

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