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Academy of American Poets Summer Series. Recorded at the New York Public Library, August 5, 2014.

About this poet

Justin Marks is the author of You're Going to Miss Me When You're Bored (Barrelhouse Books, 2014) and A Million in Prizes (New Issues Poetry & Prose, 2009), which was chosen by Carl Phillips as the winner of the 2009 New Issues Poetry Prize. He is co-founder of Birds, LLC and lives in Queens, New York. 

Voir Dire

I live in New York City and a horse
goes clopping by my window.
Then I don’t
hear the horse anymore.
All promises
have been broken.
I lie in bed and pretend
to sleep. On occasion
I see babies sleeping,
little ones lying
on their backs
with baby bones
and skeletons
and organs that function.
They see and hear
and taste and smell.
They learn to speak and feel
awkwardness and shame.
It’s good that we don’t
remember being babies.
It’s good to feel good.
Sometimes I fall
for things I shouldn’t.
I think of my parents
with a kind
of regret and sympathy
for us all. A process,
like anything else.
A series of questions
raised in silence.
It’s an adventure
inside my body right now,
not knowing what will happen.
Something gets forced in,
returns out.
Whatever it is,
I say it alone,
aloud. I decide
on a course of thought
or action, and inevitably
wind up pursuing the other.
I’m happy
to be indignant,
but also just happy.
I share a pizza
and movie with my wife.
She is like a carrot
and I’m a little rabbit.
Our babies will be orange.
A bug is pressed
into a book’s pages
on the shelf.
Tourists get their pictures taken
in front of great works of art.
A young couple French
-kisses outside
the Museum of Sex.
The moon is full and shining
magnificently over
the rivers, Hudson and East.
I’m 6 feet tall and tone deaf,
a truly terrible singer.
I’ve always been swayed
by the belief that the maker
should not be able to see
himself in his art. I see
nothing but myself.
Plastic flowers in a lush,
green garden on
the Lower East Side, Avenue C.
Pinocchio standing before
a table of wood-working tools.
I know you know
I’m spying on you
spying on me
spying on you. That’s
what makes this fun,
right? Penetrate to
the most high god
and you’ll go insane,
I hear. Even
the speed of light
isn’t fast enough
to save you.
But don’t be afraid.
It’s only the pressure
that’s difficult to bear.
Amusement park rides,
even children’s corkscrew
playground slides
make me nauseous.
Mothers yell at their children
and their children cry.
The limits of my linear mind.
I sometimes believe everything
I’ll ever do or say
is already inside
someone else.
What was I thinking
when I marked that passage
in the book that read,
This is older than towns?
As a child, my favorite
part of the day was coming home
and getting the mail,
wondering what,
if anything, was addressed
to me. I wish sleep
was a switch I could simply throw.
Sobriety and intoxication as well.
The immense joy I receive
when reading my sent emails.
Also in finally getting straight
the spellings of decent
and descent.
All day at the beach,
children stomp
out of the surf and onto
the shore. New organisms,
in the grand scheme of things.
My back is terribly sun-burnt.
Peeling. I get chills and forget
everything I’ve learned.
I’m a Mayflower
descendent.  My great
-great grandfather
was a Russian-Jewish immigrant.
Riding in a cab
up the West Side Highway,
a little tipsy,
the salt-water air
and boat fumes…
I get incredibly inspired,
but not for long.
A bowl of fresh
blueberries and glass
after glass of water
await my arrival
home.
A hard-boiled
egg for breakfast.
The cat. My wife.
The future generation
we have yet to have.
Where did this weight
I’ve gained come from?
Why can’t I lose it?
I’m in my early-thirties,
my grandparents are dead
and my parents are old.
Frequent déjà vu
renders everything inevitable.
When my wife comes home
she will kiss me and remove
her clothes, stretch out
across the bed and we will
discuss the day. Most
of my good fortune
is a fluke.
The bad as well.
That’s as far
as it ever seems to go.
Another flabby body
at the gym
trying to look good,
a relation relating itself
to itself.
There are no answers,
only variations
in understanding.
Which is the purpose
of speech. Words.
Again and again.
It’s to myself I mostly talk.
A man walking past
me on the subway platform chants,
Christmas, Christmas, Christmas.
On a large envelope I drop
in the mail I write repeatedly,
Do Not Bend.
Discovery of one thing
by way of another.
The material of the cosmos crumpling
until all possible paths
narrow to one.
I’m completely addicted
to my email. Can’t go without
checking it every few minutes.
Connection to the outside
world via the virtual.
Things either occur
or they don’t.
The lavender my mother helped
my wife transplant is dying.
One of the more satisfactory
experiences of my life
was moshing so hard
I broke my retainer.
Twenty-three years ago.
There are no
discreet events. History
is in everything.
And memory. Dim
notions coming into focus,
then fading.
In a different life
I’d like to have been
a B-movie star.
Napping on the couch I tell
myself I’m not sleeping at all, just
relaxing, absorbing
the sound of traffic,
the sun and air
through the open window.
Putting a little spring
back in my step.
All this love
and hatred in my heart.
But if I could just stay awake,
if I could just stay awake long enough
it might all work out. This day
barely begun.

From You're Gonna Miss Me When You're Bored (Barrelhouse Books, 2014) by Justin Marks. Copyright © 2014 by Justin Marks. Used with permission of the author.

From You're Gonna Miss Me When You're Bored (Barrelhouse Books, 2014) by Justin Marks. Copyright © 2014 by Justin Marks. Used with permission of the author.

Justin Marks

Justin Marks

Justin Marks is the author of You're Going to Miss Me When You're Bored (Barrelhouse Books, 2014) and A Million in Prizes (New Issues Poetry & Prose, 2009), which was chosen by Carl Phillips as the winner of the 2009 New Issues Poetry Prize. He is co-founder of Birds, LLC and lives in Queens, New York. 

by this poet

poem

Love endures like war
A connection I make then let
be unmade    Some guy
nodding out in a Starbucks,
severe career advice
from strangers    It’s 1pm and reality
is palpable    A gun
I leave my DNA wherever I can
and have no opinions to speak of
except when showering

2
poem

 

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2
poem

Plan the future            A presence unknown

                                        Derivative is the way I hit snooze
for an hour on my alarm each morning

rediscover and marvel at
                       my one grey chest hair

When I don't know how to respond

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