The Works of Mark Vogel

Mark Vogel has short stories that have recently appeared in Cities and Roads, Knight Literary Journal, WhimperbangSN Review and Our
Stories. Poetry appears in Poetry Midwest, English Journal, Cape Rock, Dark Sky, Cold Mountain Review, Broken Bridge Review and other
journals. He has directed the Appalachian Writing Project for ten years. He is currently Professor of English at Appalachian State University in
Boone, North Carolina.

All Poems © Mark Vogel

Across the way

So close the sleek highway,
the cars flash and are gone.
Trucks bully at pressing business,
spewing smoke, leaving urgently
for Oklahoma and beyond.
Once upon a time when the road was quieter,
cows gazed from under trees.
Now on the hillside across the road
a trailer park squats, indecent
in harsh and modern sun,
vinyl and metal ugly
beyond redemption.
No matter—the land has been flattened,
paved, pared to exposed clay,
the residents trucked to busy work.
The last apple tree in the orchard
is stunted and dying, the pasture forgotten.
Over the way plants were murdered,
not planted.
Over here—this manicured lawn,
this complex of condominiums—
a quieter reflecting niche. In this planned landscape
the burning bushes were brought in by truckload.
Who saw the need? Who so loved the statement?
Over there—on throw away land—
no one noticed the history eroding,
the temporary made permanent.
Those capable of statements still live
in U-hauls heading West.


At Dusk the Locusts Answer Yes Yes Yes

 

Someone surely knew she was already


beautiful, before I noticed so late,


maybe because she was familiar


like someone living close, as she slipped


into squash blossoms, and then onto


the green growing lawn in the living


outdoor summer, as rain persisted,


maddening running between the gutters,


as if the metal was designed from


the beginning to be defective—


as if this outdoor awareness was informal


preparation for warming chaos when all would


be freed—as if it was a test to see


how much we missed when


we were too absorbed to notice.


But now fat summer says there is no


turning back and long haired time


breathes and eyes seek all panorama.


Someone had filmed her generations


before in the city park, in the arranged


love come alive scene in the year’s big film,


not knowing she would be preserved


forever, with dark hair and smile


busting forth beyond oblivion as long


as the movie is shown. She was already


an historic figure when I was still raw


half-child happy to be alive/so much


younger than her, though wonder


managed easy enough to find her legend


even when it drifted out of context.


In this now decades later, long after she died,


I know well all is temporary, except her


beauty and the spark in her eyes,


which remains as mythic story,


like the sound of summer locusts happy


in the woods, an element that can’t be


taken away, though she is mute drifting


a thousand miles from the source.



Inel Kills a Tree
                                                          

“And they were usually a little shorter than they had been

in life, for the experience of death…diminishes us,
just as a piece of linen shrinks when you first wash it.”

                        -W. G. Sebald in Austerlitz

 

Some grow by planning every detail,
and Aunt Inel has scouted out her final resting place
alongside her mom beneath a sixty foot pine.
She says: Mother wanted to be buried in Rule, Texas,

but I said no way am I going back, as Uncle Len
interrupts, cackling, to inform us that before
Inel’s burial the cemetery will take out the tree
so the roots don’t tickle her feet.  Which
he finds pretty damn funny, maybe because
today they’ve paid final expenses, including
nine hundred dollars for digging the graves—
everything but the pastor’s gratuity.

Three hours later Mother and I pause over
Bud Hahs’ stone, who died in his backyard
splitting wood, his eyes rolling back in his head.
Then before Mary Rose Lewis’ bit of ground,
who faded in a Prague taxi heading for the airport.
Stark time doesn’t blink as Mother stands
perplexed before green/black/rainbow peafowl
strutting on the mausoleum steps picking at
the detritus of death. She points, noting
without sadness how Dennis Bohr lies within,
on a stone slab.  Because he couldn’t
bear the thought of dirt.

Inel’s pine with its aged flaking skin towers over
the growing collected family: Dick, Norma,
Bertha, Grandma and Grandpa, Cousin Joe,
but Mother has no time to dawdle. When she kneels
at Dad’s valley grave, arranging white lilies,
she hardly glances at her golden etched name
so close, waiting now eleven years, and I can’t
help but see her thin plot leaves no possibility for
turning or twitching.  I may be her childish guardian
but she grins at vanquished shadows in playful sun,
the afternoon stalled, as it sometimes does.   

 


Quarantine the Dead 


The dead settle in the deep murk
among rocks and ancient logs,
lingering where the living can’t see
even when someone clamors a name.
The breeze pushes water into cracks—
the ground eats at remains.
A trout rotting ragged—the gills still red.
No one has penned memories
or arranged museums of essentials.
On a clouded day the dead cluster close—
Dad, Grandpa, Grandma,
Aunt Bertha, Blackie the cat.
With flickering smiles and transparent eyes
they gather at the window,
their thin hands raised in pale greeting.
It is not polite to forget
the blood drained box-carred gone.
For stagnant molecules hang in dead air,
and in great collective depths,
waifs wander in stacked quiet.
Nowhere exists separation or end.
In the morning’s gentle touch
a flowing kiss is hardly noticed,
and the fog makes all difficult to see.


We Don’t Have to Invent Pain

 

Or document the varied twisting outlines,

or read like a book today’s head throbbing ache,

or create ahead of time monstrous mapped

simulations so others can also experience

this exactitude, as though blue-veined

 

varieties will soon be extinct.

 

We don’t have to invent desire/attune eyes/

 

fan flames, and calculate the expanding

territory, just appreciate the gift/curse,

and watch close the oozing process. Maybe

love like a movie memorized one persistent

layered scene ripped from playful

context/from one moment of touch,

for even minute desire could energize (daily)

forever—though greed with bristly pig hair

pretends we can’t get enough.

            After the meal by accident

we sometimes see just right balancing

in the shifty stream bed—at first the rocks

jostling, side by side in one persistent plan,

then one shoots suddenly downstream.

 

What is the right amount of

 

pain/pleasure birthed long ago growing

lime green acres and acres/when individual

shares remain finite, comfortable in a wallet,

patiently waiting until a magnet collects

closer sorry/happy rearranging

detritus, glossed by shadowed want

needing the reach.  In August heat

the river banks revealed, crack and harden,

 

making coming fall rains already comical.

            From the beginning writing

 

this immediate book of balance uncovers

pain and desire mixing/pushing to be first/

bad and good/grey/yellow/brown/red/

with old and young eyes focused/

lips coaxed alive with

crinkled smile/the weighting never

permanent ready or not.

 


Where are the Rats


Are they partying downstream
or sleeping at the neighbors?
Are they watching from a distance,
fearing my poison?

Once as a clan they ate the barn,
climbing walls in panic,
the lights catching them in the act.

What happened to fat families
living under the hay,
waiting for busy night freedom?
What drove them to new land?

In this new quiet era,
the barn is no longer a shelter.
What was once desirable
no longer counts.

The green glowing poison lies buried—
waiting for the next generation.
The path from the creek bed is forgotten.
A new highway takes the rat crowd away.

Today the rat era is over.
Today the quiet says boring,
a life extinct.