Four Poems by Prairie L. Markussen


Architecture : Poetry


A:  I fill my –scapes with line drawings:
a woman in bell-bottoms, a running child, a couple
forever angled into each other: automatic lines
making programmed connections.

            P:  I’m in the business of fleshing. No professor
ever said: Make an outline. Leave it bare. Spare,
maybe. But even the pithiest universe needs
a well-padded belly.

A:  Stimulating life, an outline demands
a sampling of the future: a tiny groove
of trees, the family that will reproduce,
a twelve-foot car to fit in an eighteen-foot space.

            P:  Yet even with poetry, sometimes a part
goes unnoticed. The chink that needs filling.
The beginning un- unmodified. A word, stuck,
bereft of prefix, flaunting an invisible syllable.

A : P = A room. A stanza. Each waiting for its suffix.
What we design—angle or word—is only
a kind of beginning. The rest, the rest
depends on the hopeful after of flesh and blood.






            with thanks to Carl Sandburg


Hold your truths past midnight and into dawn
and still you won’t get what may be deserved.

                                                (I tell you, I tell you)

Your unconditionals are exactly my conditions:
limitless, unchangeable. How exactly to stay

                                                (You just do, you tell me)

so frozen in person, statuesque in intention?
Your horde our memories and dole them out,

                                                (Do you remember?)

praying that this is a fourth-time’s-the-charm
kind of situation. A steady road, an unbroken

                                                (You make it work)

smile: this is the stuff of a life I rub away. Out
out. Damn. I spot the mess a mile out, me

                                                (But our eyes are everywhere)

shape-shifting to spite you. This isn’t practice anymore:
how limitless can we be? How faded is the dust

                                                (It’s quiet)

you draw your line in?





I am a piece that comes


in parts, and stays somewhat whole
throughout. I am in it for the duration
without distraction. I do not shoot outward
from a corolla, do not expect you
to turn the page: one, two, three and—back
to home—four, insisting that you play
for my meaning. I am not side by side.
I have little pace. I rarely break. I am not one of two lovers, following
each other until the end; I do not meet and meld.
I am not gravel, or rather asphalt; rather, you cannot
see me concretely, as though an animal.
I do not dwell much on the birds, the bees,
the moon, not even the tides. I refuse
the count. I do not need aids; I mean
something other than what I am to show you; I mean
I do not need distractions. I can hold you
for the duration. Refer nowhere else
but here.





Dying Down


She has emerged in between days of spark,
and days of fog. When the fourth morning turns, 
she can see what he left behind: the mark:
the bruise, lips rubbed to peeling, raw beard burn.

Residuum, in this hour, lacks meaning.
She’s come at last to this: arriving here
at careless. Released from the clench and sting,
she breaks with shame, prevents these early tears.

She is a statue in each breath, without
desire, pared down, and stutterless in form.
He would find veinless hands and deadened routes.
Her eye closed to all but light; dull, untorn.

I never once asked for you. Never spilled
outside myself, or agreed to be filled.





Prairie L. Markussen lives and writes in Tucson currently, though she's lived and written all over the place. She has been published in some great places, including Atticus ReviewPainted Bride Quarterly, The FiddleheadLouisiana Literature, and in an anthology of short poems called Bigger Than They Appear published by Accents Publishing.