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Where the Oceans Cover Us

1972, Capra Press, Santa Barbara, CA. 93 pages.




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.

Critical Comments:

"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



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. 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

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.

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