Jack Marshall

The Ground Running

Rockets gouge the refugees' roof-tops;
Celine's rant calms me..reassuring sign
in the same world sanity stops
at the shrine men kill for, in Palestine.

Rabbis rock, mullahs bow;
the call to arms packs stadiums;
God makes the stockpiles grow.
Time, growing ripe for delirium,

chews August evening's copper rays
to apricot shoe-leather, full-
flavored sunset all the way
down the horizon's throat. In thrall

to the spider I see weave
in twilight its schizy silk-
string purse around a lemon bud, in the sieve
of silence I hear my cats wail as if for milk's

elixir, and in the garden, nose-dive deep
in the rose-well, where paradise dwells..
It doesn't look like the farther you leap
or steeper you fall

leaves anyone freer at the end. All
the hooded eyes that see our way as no way
of theirs - our arrogance, waste, rapacity — call
on the sword-veiled angel cutting his way

through a field, needing to reach another
level, another realm other than the rush
to the briefing room, where to rain down far-
distanced death is "acceptable." Bush,

Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice —
coup d'etat Crusaders going terror
one better than terrorists - prophesy
(having set in motion) our worst fears:

There's all you need to see and hear in the little
that's heard of what's not being said,
to know there's near nil
enough time - hitting the ground running - , Lord,

for us who kill
for you; who die
of you. Still,
it must be hard for you —

looking out for us who can't steer
our best intentions to any better end
than slaughter. What's begun, doesn't end: there
being no ends,

only means.which means: meaning well,
we unleash disaster. When we've had enough,
some day, grown tough, we'll
be better off

without you; better hands at the game.
Some day you'll be fit for a museum.

In November 2002, Coffee House Press published Jack Marshall's tenth book, Gorgeous Chaos; New & Selected Poems, 1965-2001. He has lived in the Bay Area since moving there from New York in 1968.