The Works of Mark Vogel
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.
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
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,
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.
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
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.