Shouting Down the Silence:
Verse Poems, 1988-2001
Shouting Down the Silence is a selection of lined poems written since the publication of Pages from a Scrapbook of Immigrants.
"Morton Marcus is a poet at the top of his form, one who knows all the tricks and can just toss them aside. In Shouting Down the Silence, he holds his life in both hands, unhurriedly turning it this way to catch the light and that way to create deep shadows. The poems move seamlessly from unblinking examinations of real life, of family, of aging, of memory, into a darker world of myth where a strangely ominous Tooth Fairy rules a kingdom of ice and molars—and often the border between both worlds disappears. Marcus has concentrated on prose poems in recent years, but it is great to see he can still turn a line with the best of them."
— Robert Hershon
"Morton Marcus's poems are characterized by a generosity of spirit, a clear and curious intelligence, and a longing to connect. His 'tongue, wild meat rose' is heir to Whitman's barbaric yawp; these are songs to our common humanity, in a language accessible and true." — Kim Addonizio
Poems from Shouting Down the Silence
Nights standing in a field
or sleeping under the stars,
I sense that one of those pebbles of light
is signaling me from deep space.
I know this is nothing more
than my own longing cast like fishing line
into the depths of another kind of ocean,
and that my aloneness
is reflected in whatever rock chip
I can imagine out there,
but there's a comfort I won't deny
in the images and word groupings
I invent, no matter how outlandish
or ornate they are, or bare.
And when I realize that nothing
is going to respond to my bait,
and that I'm standing at the edge
of a bustling milky stream
packed with sparkling shards
of dumb rock, there's something
terrifying yet wonderful
my complete aloneness
that only this procedure can impart,
like standing one foggy dawn
ankle-deep in a freezing brook
with no one else around
just as the sun burns through
and the trees like tattered thoughts
release the hidden circle of the sky—
endless, empty, cold, and blue.
MY DAUGHTERS GROWN
I have returned numberless times
to that room where my daughters slept
when they were seven and two
and I heard the slender wings
of their breathing climb
and hover above their heads,
a slow flexing in that house
they haven't lived in for twenty years.
It is a father's journey undertaken
again and again to watch over and protect
in the night, while the wind
roars outside and the stars'
blue fires burn like sapphires
around that house of memory.
Grown now, both live lost and alone
in the small high rooms of tall buildings
in separate cities far away, and each night
I lumber toward those cities
but get no farther than that room
they slept in so long ago. Exhausted,
I loosen the straps of my knapsack
and set it aside like another body
at their bedsides, watching them
as they were when I wished
what a father does for his daughters,
a jumble of longings I could never
put into words and knew even then
So is it any wonder
that I cannot tell them by phone
what I wish for them, or at least
say something that will ease
the hurt and confusion in their words,
as sirens and horns and random shouts
enter the windows behind them
and wrestle with their voices
over the wire?
who has similar problems with her father,
says I always imagine my daughters
as little girls asleep in that ancient room,
and only when I portray them as women
will we be able to converse in a manner
that will satisfy us all. She' s right,
I'm sure, but she's not a father.
Last night I visited that room again,
but it rolled and pitched, the house
no longer a house but a ship plunging
through the night, transporting
a cargo of children all in my care
to an unknown destination. I stood
on the deck, knowing there was
no wheelhouse behind me and no rudder,
and all I could do was pray for them all,
while, like a celestial liner,
the ship slid through the night,
its hull scraped and scarred
by the hot sapphire of the stars.
Rabelais in a coma for three days.
When the death rattle enters his throat,
his eyes spring open, his snarled beard shakes,
and lifting himself from the pillows
he sweeps from his chest the six-foot cross,
all brass and heavy as a bedstead,
which the presumptuous priests,
now chanting around him, had placed there,
and before falling back in the bedclothes,
he exclaims, "Curtain! The farce is ended!
And now off to a vast perhaps."
SHOUTING DOWN THE SILENCE
When I lie down to sleep
and the hairs on my body stir,
somewhere, I'm sure of it, the trees
down the length of a mountain range
are fluttering in a moonlit breeze.
Not that this explains anything or restores
or even breaks the endless silence
of the broken pitcher lying on its side
in an abandoned shack, the rusty coat hangers
in empty lots, or any discarded thing, nor that my mind will possibly invent a thought that will change the contours of the universe
and show me a pathway through it,
but that at the moment of my death
I will be able to let my last breath go
with the same unthinking assurance
as that breeze sailing down the mountain range,
knowing that to every furred rib cage it ruffles,
and to every leaf and wingtip it nudges,
it murmurs in my voice, like a shout
down the silence, "I was here."
2002, Creative Arts Book Co., Berkeley, CA. 104 pages.