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Photo by Tony Mucci on Unsplash

I watched one man kill another,
forced to draw a sword and uncork
some red wet to grout the tiles.

That is us — the givers and takers of orders.
In a world that makes us afraid,
we are worth being afraid of.

Not everyone can do it, but enough
of us have to, less of us need to,
fewest of us want to, and we often take

our leave without the chance to prove
for whom we caucus at night.
Eventually, some get what they deserve

but not before consuming others
like a match that only surrenders when
the entire house is warm with flame.

In the meantime — let us fill the buckets
with rain, watch the mosquito larvae molt
beneath the two-way mirrors, born
hungry and ready to flee from all the fire.

© Trapper Markelz 2020

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Photo by Tom Henell on Unsplash

Above the trees you’ll find cairn cathedrals
pointing where the birds go. Left behind,
we climb step after step, guided

by feldspar flakes and diorite fists
that wear the radius of a river’s age.
Looking down on the world below, it’s clear

how the deepest oceans built the highest
graveyards filled with birds silently resting
their talons, heads tilted back, praying in a sun

where fossil snails bent their beaks.
They say you can balance an egg
during the vernal equinox. It turns out

you can balance it anytime you want
if you know the trick: a squinting eye,
a steady hand, a solid foundation.

© Trapper Markelz 2020

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Our book is full of faces,
tight jaws and pursed eyes,
raised teeth and slack ears.
So many forgotten lives

between these pages; vibrant
otherwise in the halon
flash of instantaneous.
They drove different cars
and different clothes, stood
before different doors,

linked by hands, shared skin,
except the last, to grasp blindly at air
searching for the next seed
of infinity to be forgotten.

© Trapper Markelz 2020

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

We play games beneath the firs,
among the hornet and bird buzz,

a search in the low grass for perfect
sticks upon which to whittle

where blackened pine fingers reach
for a ready tea kettle full of awake.

Old leaves wrestle with the sod
in soft voice, but I refuse to leave

my camp chair. The world is full
of sharp corners. I’m safer here,

watching you stack apple wood
in the fire, holding a broken hatchet.

You’re as old as I remember being,
finding your footing in the forest,

to bend your knees as you chop;
avoid the scars as long as possible.

© Trapper Markelz 2020

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Photo by Kevin Bosc on Unsplash

When I was in high school, we drove our cars
on the beach over rocks and logs; dented
pans and broken tails in the sea salt grass
fast upon flattened dark stones; sometimes snared

by a drifted log standing tall in fields
of amateur muscles; flexing our small-
town youth. On one particular neap tide,
shores were left wide open in the northern

black sand. Even at full throttle, the car,
the driver, and our expectations were
too heavy. The wheels arrested; slowly
claimed by the bay before our eyes. Later —

when the tide went out — there was nothing left
but three small boys; two of them did escape.

© Trapper Markelz 2020

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In Hawaii, I kept a child gecko
with big toes in a Styrofoam cup,
watching its tongue flick for absent
water. He’s a legend — that gecko —

dying later inside the outgassing white,
rendered still as a sunflower seed,
cracked and spit on the ground
where I watched the red ants overpower

the brown scorpions in the parking garage;
the same scorpions that paraded through
stalls on the beach where I pulled my
skinning legs high off the floor, praying

they were all blind and overwhelmed,
stinging each other with violent language
like the murder bees and the jelly fish
and the flag wavers.

© Trapper Markelz 2020

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Who built the ragged stone field walls
that hide in the forest? They’ve seen
better days — beaten down by footsteps
and long gazes; held together only

by their human forgottenness.
Someone dragged that errata from the dirt,
boulder and slab, on a diet of sour bread
and sweet preserves; loaded them

on a sun-bleached cart and whipped
a well-loved animal into place.
We like to line things up — a trail
left in the grass, the mark of tectonic plates

moving away from one another,
generations of beaded civility in pursuit
of a perfect line; some of them waiting to be
completed, others just beginning.

© Trapper Markelz 2020

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Photo by Drew Darby on Unsplash

To sit in the morning and sip coffee
and read and weep without tears and
push my fingers into my temple
and blow out a breath with a pop

as the clock ticks one more minute
in an October rain that leans against
the first frost of garden destruction
where it’s too cold to go out

and too cold to stay in. Luckily —
there is a child wrapped in blankets
before the fire on a makeshift bed
of throw pillows, radiating kinetic

potential into the clutching human condition;
skin folding into a fist that pounds the table
in rhythmic applause because today
is a petulant world with eyes…


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Photo by DDP on Unsplash

What if we close our eyes and teleport
from where we fall asleep to where we wake,
our entire body killed then remade,
built up shell by shell, new in every way

except in soul — a more elegant word
for consciousness — unable to measure
the long space between, uncertain of the
motion and the measure? Do fish with their

open eyes cheat? Are the moles and cave shrimp
time travelers? If I knew all it would
take is a hot poker in my eyes, I
would have built a fire long ago, and

plunged the iron deep into red ashes;
sticky heat the key to all the kingdoms.

© Trapper Markelz 2020

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What if we need suffering? What then?
Our pain a path to grow within us
resilience and then creativity;
sloppy innovation filling a bucket

of progress and prosperity for more and more.
What if we believed what Sirach wrote back then
— there is nothing new under the sun —
how many would have ceased? How many

never born? For it all, we suffer
the genocide and theriocide, femicide
and ecocide of the past, present,
and future; filling our spiral bound book

of lies because none of us prefer the truth
about anything — but I’ll keep digging
with the rest of you — sweeping the land
with my shovel, pulling the world close.

© Trapper Markelz 2020

The line “there is nothing new under the sun” is from Ecclesiastes 1:9

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About

Trapper Markelz

Husband. Father of four. Cyclist. Musician. Poet. Sci-fi enthusiast. Writes from Boston, MA.

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