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Shouting Down the Silence:
Verse Poems, 1988-2001

2002, Creative Arts Book Co., Berkeley, CA. 104 pages.



Shouting Down the Silence is a selection of lined poems written since the publication of Pages from a Scrapbook of Immigrants.

Critical Comments:

"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

about acknowledging

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.





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

were impossible.


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?



My wife,

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."




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."

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