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THE Santa Cruz Mountain Poems

Drawings by Gary H. Brown

1972, Capra Press, Santa Barbara, CA. 68 pages.

1992, 2nd Printing, Capitola Book Company, CA.


The Santa Cruz Mountain Poems is a sequence of short nature poems that trace a hike through the Santa Cruz Mountains during the course of a day, which is also the course of a year. In two parts — the first representing dawn to noon in the dry season, and the second noon through night in the rainy season — the poems in each section match and contrast with each other.

Critical Comments:

"Marcus has traced his progress through a rugged interior landscape, and these poems are the guide through that country of the spirit . . . The images are as surprising and original as their author."    George Keithley


"All the poems in this book are extraordinary...they are great American nature songs . . . This is one of the most beautifully produced, great books of poetry I have seen."   — Andrei Codrescu, Shocks


"Marcus's third book contains not only some of his best work but several of the more striking poems of their kind by an American poet of this generation."

   — Michael Heffernan, Dryad



Poems from The Santa Cruz Mountain Poems



Leaves crackle under my steps.

Like hands lifting my boots,

they pass me from one leaf to another.




I went into a stone.

Inside its silence

there was the static

knitting it together.


A silver lake lay clenched

beyond the trees, but every bush

was a closed gate, and iron branches

barred my way. Finally,


I crawled into a thicket of noise,

became part of a vast forest

where everything buzzes and hums

beneath a tight sky.


My shape was the silence

I could not reach:

the noise defined me

and I knew my place.


When I emerged into the light,

all the hairs on my body

were fibers of sound

scraping sparks against the air.


This is how I was loosed into my flesh:

white birds flew from my mouth,

insects crawled from my nails,

and I rose in the footprints of the great beasts.




Nighthawks flutter over the field.

The white markings under their wings:

luminous bones swinging through the dark,

batons the dead use to conduct the stars.




Tall spirit of ashes,

do not preserve me from the weight of snow.

Let me lie down with the fields

and mouth the platitudes of mud.


Do not conserve me against the spider's shroud.

Show me the directions the worms refuse to take.


Someone collects the footsteps I leave behind,

another sips at the edges of my sweat.


Lead me to your robe of shadows,

raise me to your head

which is the hive of many voices.

I want to put my face inside.


I know whatever I am has a long breath

and what I find of myself

has the bitter taste of crushed leaves

and a bear's heavy tread.


The stones are my cousins

and the big rocks look down like uncles

who cannot find a comfortable place.


If I am only the damp space I blunder toward,

I know that nothing can start before I arrive.


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