1972, Capra Press, Santa Barbara, CA. 93 pages.
Where the Oceans Cover Us
"Morton Marcus writes in an idiom which is both accessible to many and finely wrought, creating a texture remarkable for its lyrical range and mastery of metaphor. I sense an urgency in the turmoil and suffering of these poems, an energy of exorcism almost, a resonance of a man who has confronted the complexities of his inner life. The authenticity of these poems shares in the mystery and inevitability of the human condition. Marcus is one of the most readable and moving poets of our generation." — Charles Simic
"A common bond exists between the poems and the readers, a reality in which people, not words, suffer; a drama where situation and character mean more than simple imagination . . . Readers will be left with a firm awareness of Marcus as a good, even fine poet." — Ray Chandler, Westcoast Review
Poems from Where The Oceans Cover Us
PICNIC ON THE BAY BRIDGE
driving across the Bay Bridge at 50 m.p.h.
my hands float from the steering wheel
my body expands suffused with light
and I flow through the windshield
hover before my speeding car
and watch myself driving with a silly grin
my wife is talking to the side of my head
my daughter grinding away in the coloring book
and only the baby sees that I'm gone
as she croons at my figure flying away
around me battalions of golden men
rise from their cars
and swim through the air
and women float out of their make-up
out of their clothes and shopping lists
children tumble and soar
all of us swoop through pouring down cold
and dance above the cars
some hold their groins others giggle
but only for a moment
and there are my wife and kids
in their golden creases of skin
they wait for me to breast stroke back
and then we wrestle and laugh
"did you bring the pickles and ham" I ask
"yes" says my wife and caresses my neck
"hey do you have any mustard over there"
asks a balding middle-aged man
we float him the jar and he
and a Mexican family swim over
tortillas and French bread
hams chorizos—and barbecued ribs
supplied by a school bus full of black kids
chanting verses from the Tao Teh Ching
under the guidance of an elderly Chinese
who conducts them in his rags of glowing skin
we eat we chant we dance and sing
while the toll gate shines far ahead
I HAVE BEEN AWAY A WEEK
I have been away a week. The moon hangs on the hill,
high over the house where my wife sits waiting
surrounded by trees and children.
Outside, the cats prowl through their shadows
and the three raccoons rise at the door,
their lean black hands extended
as if praying.
I cannot drink wine from plum-colored cups
like my Chinese fathers. They were driven
far from home by war or an angry emperor,
and with only the moon for friend
would sip and stare at shadows,
contemplating the impermanence of fortune
until they had to spell their grief into a poem.
Unable to hold a peace I nearly had,
I have gone away with another woman,
leaving the mountain for a rented yard.
The moon hangs on the hill and will not join me.
This room is cold and far away.
HER VOICE ON THE PHONE
Her voice on the phone
shrieks like fingernails against my window.
All the poor and hungry outside, and my ice box full.
What can I do against the pain I cause
merely being what I am
and in this place with a full stomach?
Curse my bread and starve my life!
All things resolve into the same dilemma:
we keep from others what they'd have us give.
I love this woman; she is everything I've been.
But I have no answer, and the phone goes dead.
Where The Oceans Cover Us is a miscellany of poems written and published in literary journals by Marcus from the late 1950s and early 1960s. The poems are personal lyrics in various tones.