Three Poems – Mark Anderson



Turn the water on too hot.
Squeeze in too much soap. Pretend
you are drowning. Cloak your 
wounds in the yellow decay.
Fill the sink with plates and knives.
Scrub it all away until
the past is so sparkling clean

your friends smile and eat off it.
Not a white tooth in the house
when the sun rises on this
hung-over fortress of youth,
the lazy yellow fire
assaulting sweaty lines on
foreheads, still almost asleep.

These self portraits you plunge beneath
sunken history shrivel
until they don’t look like you,
here with the plates, removing
what is left when a meal is done. 
The future will take shape when
the residue is gone.

The morning will come to you:
esophagus purging the
acrid result of honey
down a stale ceramic bowl,
hiding your face, sick with shame
at what your obsession meant,
what they knew but couldn’t see.

But at this moment you’re here,
parting what’s cut from the blade,
believing in hidden knives
below the dirty water
of this stainless sink. You know
they can cut you. You believe
even you can be washed clean.

after Steve Roggenbuck

One day you will die,
like a deer on the side of the high-way,
and that’s the only death you get,

because YOLO.

You can yell at the deer,
“YOLO! deer, YOLO!”
all you want, but he can’t.

He has already YOLOed.

He can’t YOLO in Vermont.

He can’t YOLO in Disneyland.

He can’t YOLO in strobe-lit dance clubs
tossing back shot after shot of fireball.

He can’t YOLO in the hospital, hours later,
wondering where his pants danced off to,
remembering very little,
regretting nothing.

He can’t YOLO a little white stick
with a plus sign to change it all,
church bells, divorce papers,
a life thrown in the trash
like a disposable ring.

He can’t YOLO whiskey instead of grief.
He never was good at grief.

He can’t YOLO his own funeral,
long chestnut pews collecting holy water for mass,
a solemn voice speaking truths 
that are not him
while his own tongue turns to dust,
a woman collapsing like an avalanche 
into the ash-black canals
flowing down her face,
ferrying her back to when
they kissed like a rainstorm,
lightning striking between their teeth,
and she alone remembers this now,
a moment she would have gladly occupied forever.

His absence is so much more present 
now that he has gone.

She wants an answer.
She wants to know why.

The moment lights like a dove in her palm
then flies away,
carrying with it her impossible,
pure grief.

It’s really over.
She will go home.
She will sleep.
She will awaken in the morning.

One morning, his absence 
will be only an absence again.

She will smile.
She will laugh.
Small moments will take hold of her.

One day she will die.
Like a deer on the side of the highway.
And this is the only life she gets.


Dandelions are the best flower
because they are the only flower
made of wishes.

Maybe you are a wish.
Love is a good wish,
a child’s secret carried off by the wind.

The child picks these tiny deaths,
snaps their stems between his index finger and thumb
arranging a bouquet for his mother

who looks down at so many of them
gathered at once
and sees wishes she made when she was his size,

before she understood what it meant
that she will grow old and die,
then he will grow old and die,

then his children will grow old and die.
And that is how their lives will unfold
if we are so lucky.

But hey,
wishes turn into dandelions when they die,
did you know that?

They reach up like tiny suns
grasping at the sky that is their birthright,
then the child transforms them into a symbol for love.

Look, magic!
One thing turns into another
and we don’t know how or why.

Like his hands,
at first they can only grasp and release,
they can only open and close

transforming everything they touch.
They can only give and take
holding up a shoe-box

containing the deceased body
of the world’s best hamster,
the fountain of youth amassing like a militia on his cheeks

dripping single file to the ground
where dandelions turn from yellow to white
in one night’s whisper.

But hey, this isn’t about dandelions anymore,
is it? This is about how every moment is a tiny death,
and I can’t get past that.

This is the moment when the child first learns
how hands are imperfect instruments
unable to hold onto anything they love.

They can’t even hold onto that hamster.
They can’t catch it when it escapes his grasp.
But he sits down and hears a tiny skull crack beneath the chair,

an ugly precursor to music
too small for the significance it carries,
like his hands

holding up a shoe-box
made heavy by the impermanence,
asking his mother to fix it.

And when she inevitably can’t
he looks up to her and says, 
“there is no mommy magic, is there?”

The child gets bigger every time she looks at him,
but he does not mean to.
He turns into me. 

Look, magic!
One thing turns into another
and we have to believe it’s a good thing.

I pick an old dandelion turned wise with age,
whisper into its ear a question regarding loss.
In response, it lets go of everything it has ever been.

Looking at the bare stem
I am reminded of the virtue
held in an open palm.

Somewhere, right now, a child wishes for love.
A child wishes to be young forever.
A child wishes to be a super hero.

The wind-sail seeds float to the ground
and grow into another generation
determined to burn like the sun.

About Mark Anderson

In my dreams I'm a charming noir detective who always knows what to say. View all posts by Mark Anderson

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