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24 Oct

by Marc Vincenz


Night dreams of day
and day of that tremulous moment

when red-gold washes
over hills, and trees

whisper pheromones,
coax birds to sing lovesongs

before the rising
are dedicating letters

to distances measured,
traversing mountains chains,

seas crossed, forests conquered,
numbered things—

a weird grouping
of similar or related artifacts

like collectable porcelain angels
in all manner of speculative poses—

to look upon in glass cases
when they have immeasurable time

when they have grown
terribly old.


3 Oct

              at the Great Wall Sheraton Hotel, Beijing, 1992



Kwok Ying thinks people of a certain kind

will find it easier to remember him.  He’s right.


But as if his name were so hard to inflect—

plenty of other things come to mind.


Memory works in flashbacks,

scraps of trailers, web-bytes, top ten charts, ding-a-ling.


Still, he’s called me here for a reason,

not just to watch him plough through a 15-oz steak,


French fries, Brussels sprouts all doused in Béarnaise,

slurping and sucking like he’s got to get it all in before it’s too late.


I sit back, watching it all unfold:

genius at the dinner plate.


Twenty minutes in, chewing for his life,

he rustles it out of his jacket pocket:


typewritten on carbon paper.

Here.  For you.  Careful.  He says.


Inside there’s a number with five zeros.

An ooze of sauce drips onto his sleeve.


We have coffee.  He has a crepe suzette, flambéed with cognac.

At the end he reaches for the bill, says: So?  We have deal?


previously published in Revolution House

Fire Horse

19 Sep

by Marc Vincenz

           Hong Kong, 1966-1969

The years of the Cultural Revolution & over the border
            children are soldiers.

A Fire Horse like your son, or so the Venerable Chan intones, would burn
            a thousand bridges like Stalin

or raise them high over galactic distances like JFK. In those years
            when over the border

children are soldiers, fathers & mothers are paraded and paddled
            as examples of proletariat degeneracy

& we move to Stanley, beyond the Happy Valley, on the edge
            of a fisherman’s market

where they sell sea snakes by the dozen & clams the size of dinner plates.
            It’s here my old man smokes cigars

& learns strategies in the art of war & Mother to bake apple pie
            with flaky Danish pastry from my nursemaid,

Amma Lui, who’s worked in the kitchens of the Jockey Club.
            While they plot & bake, the AC vent spits

hot air into our tropical garden. Outside among the rhododendrons
            I ride my stick horse, Lightning,

running spears through hearts of cacti, eagerly watching
            the thick white blood run all over the earth.


previously published in
Revolution House

God’s Honest Truth

29 Aug

by Marc Vincenz

World of consequence,
beyond measure,
more luminuous
than fireflies.

Pure witchery,
and yet, amassed,
a supersponge jellified
in your mind’s eye,
pixillated in 3000 dpi.

Not only the horizon lies,
the moon and stars too.

The Ex-Wife

22 Aug

by Marc Vincenz

I am one of those souls
without any resources
who roam about
with sleeves rolled up.
As blood oranges
grow out of the face
of autumn, she,
she is a vessel
of pure white jade
against the unfeeling hands
of barbarians.
How would they know the songs
that can break one’s heart?
Her memory is twisted
between two myths.
The one I tell my children.
The one she tells his.

Moonlight Beebop

8 Aug

                   The Peace Hotel, Shanghai, 1993

by Marc Vincenz

The old jazz band plays for hard cash, bills in advance,
song by lonesome song. Hotel guests read laminated
grease-flecked menus alongside Manhattans and Martinis

poured with abandon under a light glow
of flickering fluorescence trying to recall
Louis Armstrong’s Wonderful World, in between pumped up

cheeks of trumpet, The Girl from Ipanema where Mister Piano
shakes maraca, or As Time Goes By, softly crooned
‘You must LEE-member dis…’ Dirk and Ingrid

shanghaied, toe to toe, eye to eye in the gloom.
Bar smells faintly of damp linoleum and cocktail onions
and when In the Mood swings in, clarinet on solo,

the tempo is a hitch too slow, warbling in E flat.
There’s a bird chirping in the rafters
and our waiter’s going at it with a wet mop to the tune of

Bridge Over Troubled Water.
This is Mister Ren, our bandleader’s
favorite. Every time he goes to tears.

It reminds him of his first wife, Lu Lu
who plunged into the sludge of the Yangtze
from the tallest bridge in town so she could admire the view.

Billy the drummer hunches over his kit.
He’s about to tumble in himself,
really he’s falling asleep, only his wrists flick and snap

like someone just wound up his spring.
Soon I think his teeth will start chattering castanets;
sure enough someone’s paying for Spanish Nights in Harlem.

And when we get up to the room, undressed,
laid bare to foggy Shanghai moonlight
and all the rosewood is staring wide-eyed,

you look like much like a wilted rose, red gone deep plum.
Somewhere I hear Chatanoogachoochoo
it’s Mister Ren in falsetto;

and you stand at the window taking in the air
that smells like fish and gasoline and wonton soup.

Admirable Kingdom

25 Jul

by Marc Vincenz



Hervé’s Tintin cinched it—the illusion that on our one trip to Tibet—

we might catch a glimpse of the Abominable Snowman.


But, I’ll tell you:

I knew long before that this was not the missing link to our past.


Even on the highest peaks in crampons and sticks: Nothing.

You suggested we might yet discover the unknown.


A lost scroll, perhaps? A manuscript would connect us

to the New World in undecipherable hieroglyphs.


Did I mention

the highlanders’ shawls reminded me of the Andes?


Could it be, you said, that here was a displaced race of the Olmeca?

The ancestors of the Aztecs?  Surely it was written in the stones.


I could see the need for some alternate history,

but in amongst the stupas and prayer flags, the yaks and butter tea


on Lake Nam-Tso where fish swim higher than most birds

and thousands circumnavigate rubbing elbows to the memory of Siddharta,


there was only loneliness, dry wind upon the plains,

a certain kind of choking breathlessness.


In Guge, lost kingdom of sand-hewn castles upon the rock of heavens,

the caretaker swept sand from sand,


featherdusting the worn window ledges and alcoves.

Anything to keep the desert from swallowing his heritage.


But even he—wind-bitten, grumpy old chap that he was—

had to smile at a photo of the Dalai Lama embracing the world.



first published in THIS Literary Magazine

Percolating Man

18 Jul

by Marc Vincenz



My bones are numbered each part of my endoskeleton collapsing in succession


Can’t remember if ever I was a child who healed like others scrapes turning


to scabs yearning to be picked and scratched but worming under the skin like


silverfish Foreign among you I stir in the muddy gravy of the city growing old


in drafts rubber-soled and checkered in flannel slippers so my feet don’t touch


the bitters and in the dim morning light three roaches in the kitchen Tiberius


Nero and Marcus Antonius battling over my crumbed dominion of linoleum


in corners never reached they slip into the walls when I’m frying my egg and the


coffee in the filter dribbles the marble sheen of cream and the distant choir of the


city angelic in it’s own hallelujah until seventeen down a man with no name


six across a looped rope and the answer on page twenty-nine past the bombs


the price of fertilizer past the supermarket specials and the saros of a recurring


eclipse when the umbra doesn’t reach the earth past the rattling of the janitor


on the stairs and behind the walls a million roaches waiting for the fall


of the empire and my stigmata of five holy wars never quite healing over

Parsifal and The Evil Forest

20 Jun

By Marc Vincenz

I had intended to write
this poem about Parsifal,
the same in Wagner’s opera.
I considered it would put
a little romance back into things—
knights, steeds, maidens, kings;

and then I was reading Charles Simic
over dinner, I’d cooked myself, for myself,
and I realized that if he’d written a poem
about Parsifal, he too would not have
written about the legend itself,

he would have likened the Wagnerian opera
to something akin to life on the docks in New York,
red dresses stolen from the backs of trucks,
making love behind a refrigerator
in his seedy apartment
with a bowl of spaghetti tossing
through his and his lover’s hair.


first published in Prick of the Spindle


13 Jun

by Marc Vincenz
at the Oxford Medical Convention 1851 

And here you meet yourself again reflected in the golden amber,  trapped like an extinct insect, inside the round ball of her eye.    

—Rainer Maria Rilke, “Schwarze Katze”


This wild child.  This freak of nature.

This pacing boy who sheers and grunts has decadence

only for water and the sunrise.


He abhors the pipe-smoke of mansions,

the comforts of carpets and papered interiors.

Surely he is part of the great animal continuum.


Note the raised forehead, the elongated ears.

The wide nostrils.  And where is his need for geometry?

for lines and symmetry?  His hope for utopia?


And Gentlemen, observe the lack of a symbolic imagination.

He hardly knows how to hold a pen.

And paint?  He rather eats it—


possibly due to the nutrients he is lacking

from his sedentary diet of dirt and twigs and wild berries.

Where we meet nature with the edges of our tools


he embraces it, rubbing himself in mud and leaves,

twittering quite happily like the birds.

And we have found, just like the dog to his bone,


he hides all his decomposing possessions in the ground,

possibly for the chance to dig them up and admire them again later.

And he is quite color blind, unable to distinguish


the fleeting from matters of irrefutable consequence.

Here, Gentlemen: let me present to you the living worm

plucked from our dusty book of nature.


previously published in Brink Magazine


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