i’ll know you’re coming by…

I don’t possess the answers, but Daniel Paul Marshall certainly has the questions!

Daniel Paul Marshall

The question mark defines our humanity, we are human because we have questions. Ask questions, always. Hang your humanity on it. i’m working a lot on sonnets these days; it is a wonderful form.

i’ll know you’re coming by | the momentary dip
in light. Describe yourself in the space of a quatrain.
i’ll take just 4 words & a ?: what makes me human?
The a priori tapped in human does the job
of cryptic semiotics | the crossword puzzle | hopscotch
of nouns & adjectives— is this the nihilism of progress
or the progress of nihilism? Reduction | acquiescence
or just plain sensible? i’d call it nothing short of deadlock.

This basic | we’re all odd & even: even with one another
& odd with the inestimable latitudes & longitudes
of the skull | which nature probably won’t survive.

The light still hasn’t dipped | you haven’t…

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Your Armpits Smell Like Heaven


Your Armpits Smell Like Heaven

But your breath could melt a glacier at three
miles, she says, and then we might consider
the dirt under your nails, the way you slur
your sibilants, and how you seldom see

the cracked eggs in a carton, a downed tree
branch in front of you, the ripened blister
of paint in the bedroom, or your sister
lying drunk on the floor in her own pee.

Back to your armpits. Do you realize
we could bottle that aroma and make
a fortune? I inhale it and forgive

your many faults. The odor provokes sighs
and tingles, blushes I could never fake.
Ain’t love grand? Elevate those arms. Let’s live!

Never in my wildest dreams did I envision writing a poem about armpits. But the August 2015 Tupelo Press 30-30 challenge, and Plain Jane, the title sponsor, provided that opportunity. This first appeared here in April 2016, and was subsequently published in Algebra of Owls. Many thanks to editor Paul Vaughan for taking it.


To That Dismal Train Somewhere Near Banff

To That Dismal Train Somewhere Near Banff

Forgotten, you settle into the earth,
naming stones for each destination missed –
Kamloops, Jasper, Lake Louise – which is worth
each open-mouthed coin laid on the rail, kissed

and reformed into altered currency
no longer capable of carrying
debt or a tourist’s sense of urgency,
only dying days and the wearying

plight of the unmoved. If vines caress your
body, who’s to blame for accepting their
advances? When green subsumes rust, deplore
that too, but enjoy the moments you share,

leaf on metal and glass, the raspy light
tonguing your throat through those long, whistling nights.

(Hotel Eden) In Full Light We Are Not Even a Shadow


(Hotel Eden) In Full Light We Are Not Even a Shadow

Which is to say clarity persists in
increments, in the silent space between
color and lens, within parables seen
in the incomplete: straw, hand. Imagine

white valued more than manner as hidden
thought remains obscured. Lower your eyes, lean
forward. Perspectives tilt towards the mean,
suggesting purpose. When we examine

intent, do we find it? The irony
of bottled cork, of sullied paradise,
a coiled wire, the parrot whose voice,

unheard, implicates us. What felony
must we commit to admit the device
in play? Pull or release? The mimic’s choice.

Notes: “In full light we are not even a shadow” is a line from Antonio Porchia’s Voices.

Hotel Eden is the title of a piece of art by Joseph Cornell. An image may be found here:


This made its first appearance here in March 2015.

Apricot Wood


“Apricot Wood,” is included in my chapbook , If Your Matter Could Reform, and was featured on Autumn Sky Poetry Daily in March 2015

Apricot Wood

I built a frame of apricot
wood. This was for you. The clouds float
through it even as I sleep. You wrote
once of wild herbs gathered and brought
to a lovely girl, an offering not
of passion but of some remote
desire to hear a word from the throat
of the Lord Within Clouds. I thought
of this as I chiseled the wood.
Last night it rained. I listened to
it from my bed by the open
window, hoping that the clouds would
not leave. This morning two birds flew
by. It is raining again.


Dream of Wheels and Lights


Dream of Wheels and Lights

Bells clang in the night. The lamp post belted
by mist offers little comfort. A stone’s
toss away junipers curved like melted
spoons shudder silently. There are no phones
in this place. A thought sneaks into your mind
quietly, like a straw piercing the oak’s
armor in a bad wind. You turn and grind
the thought with your heel. A wheel rolls by, spokes
flashing like scythes. Crouching by a puddle
a man studies his face. He looks at you
and cries: “All I want is to be subtle.”
You think you know him, but you’re not sure who
he used to be. You throw a rock and shout
at him. The wheel slows and the light burns out.

Originally published in Amelia, in 1985, and posted here in March 2015. I remember writing this, but it still puzzles me.


I Look for You with Satellite View


I Look for You with Satellite View

But binoculars are my oldest friend.
Watching you flash between leaf and branch, stone
and sky, I remember, as the black groans
in, obliterating light at the end

of the day’s voice, that everyone descends,
our debts counted, stacked and restacked, the loans
unpaid and endless, like breath or the moans
of autumn’s bed spiraling back. Light sends

you elsewhere – the silver-tipped moon leaf, a
wisp of fog tracing your leg’s passage in
the sand. That empty bottle. You could be

there, above ground, or scattered where I lay,
an orbiting eye forever open,
looking, searching always, trying to see.

This is the 31st poem written for the August 2016 Tupelo Press 30/30 Challenge. Many thanks to Ken Gierke for sponsoring and providing the title.