Mark J. Mitchell

Dinner with the Heroine

You sit in a room that doesn’t exist,
imagining wine. The woman’s face floats
soft as fog. You’ve only read her. The mist
smiles—fictional, shy. Her out of date coat
drops off her shoulders. You’re all out of words,
waiting to hear a voice that can’t be heard.

Imagined wine reflects her face. You float
on that voice, waiting for a quick silence
so you can fill gaps in your yellowed notes.
The where and how of childhood. The odd sense
of place and tragedy she always wore,
though you can’t see it. You see she’s bored

by this fog of words you’ve read. You dismissed
her class too late. She hates those student years,
she tells you. Her eyes may call for a kiss,
but that could be light on almost tears
that page sixty tells you are never far
from falling. Her voice gets masked by a car.

That smile’s not fictional, but out of date
words drop cool from her mouth. She wants to smoke
and drink obsolete cocktails. You still wait
your chance to shine—give wisdom or a joke
she hasn’t heard. You want to tell her the true
meaning of her deeply symbolic shoes.

She drops her shoulder, waits for all your words
to stop so she can spout the dialogue 
she remembers. She’s distracted by birds
perched like notes on wires. By two playful dogs
sniffing each other across the dark street.
She wonders, really, why you met, why she’s

waiting with her rusty voice still unheard
by you—eager, wanting time to reveal
her prosy truth. She knows she’s built of words
that please you for no reason. This non-meal
is a mistake, so she becomes a mist—
again. Showing you she doesn’t exist.

Dream Travail

Inventions on themes from Joyce Mansour

Des rêves aux cals dur...
                —Sauvage Jubliations D’Aillienes

Her calloused dreams end hard as petrified scales.
She weighed them by daylight, then ate each one
unsauced—naked, like her. Their bitter taste
pleased her sweet face—held in its own hardness
out of greed. She’ll ablute. Let days grace
her calloused dreams, hard as unpracticed scales.

Seuls les dieux savant lire.

She’ll let the gods read her, cool as loose beads
sliding through divine fingers. Her soft smile
offers light enough. They watch her like a word
learned, forgotten then relearned. She knows
their eyes are fixed on her. She often heard
gods’ lips move as they read, loud as stone beads.

Au fond du miroir moucheté de bronze.
                —Tu M’as Abandonée Nuitamment

She dives through her mirror, flecked with bronze,
adjusting masks for her cheeks, her stiff eyes,
cracked by time. Her dreams—hard—still haunt daylight.
So, she swims, damp as a ghost, through old gods’
realms, claiming rights to names. She’ll write
on mirrors leading back through an age called bronze.


Mark J. Mitchell’s most recent poetry collections are ROSHI San Francisco from Norfolk Publishing (2020) and Starting from Tu Fu from Encircle Publications (2019). He lives with his wife—the activist and documentarian, Joan Juster—in San Francisco, where he has made his marginal living pointing out pretty things. Now, he’s looking for work again.

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