M. Jennifer Markus – When I was in my thirties


Sara came down the stair
so like a wraith
a whisper

a sigh

And Patrick was waiting there
so like the first moment

they met



She seemed a vision

and could only smile

at the muted joy

in her heart

He overflowed

in love

he had beguiled himself
This yearly anniversary

of love and beloved

reunited beyond the bonds

of life

played out to the final climax

I had watched

below the stair

for many years

ghost and man

make love

on their wedding day

She moaned

an ecstasy

a trap that kept her



to this mortal earth

shared and held

by him

His bond as well

to life

Nine years

I saw

The ghost become more pale
The man so near to death

who would not live his life

except as passing time

until his wedding night

And as the day

drew near

to ten long years
I saw him tire

weary countenance

of one who had

missed the bountiful blessings

of life

by holding death

so tightly in his breast

I laid his dinner

on the table

as I had so many times


Folded his napkin

polished the silver

asked him if he wanted

anything more

‘What was that’ he asked

‘Do you need anything more

than what is on the table now?’

‘Need? I heard “want'”

‘You seem to want only what

you cannot have

And you need much more than that’

I touched him gently

on the shoulder

as I turned to leave

He took my hand

so real

firm yet

yielding flesh


warm blood


so alive

I had hoped for many years

Alive enough

to dispel the ghost

And as he cleared
his place
and laid me gently

on the table

I heard Sara sigh
first moment of her peace

since the day she died.


The Poet’s Thoughts: The reason this poem is called Dream is because the entire plot was given to me in a dream. In a way, it doesn’t even feel as if I wrote it, because it came from somewhere else.


I have cried
crystal tears
and I watch them
collect in the gutter
like unset diamonds
and forgotten
These have only
been shed off
the surface
my heart is uncut glass
even by these
sharp and multifaceted
they bounce off
leaving pock marks
on an already mottled shell
If I could crack the egg and
let the insides
seep out
and dry in the sun
would I finally get
some peace?


The Poet’s Thoughts: The way I originally dealt with the death of my daughter was to free-base a lot of cocaine and to drink a lot. This approach was not very effective. I think the death of a child is something that never completely disappears. But to help it fade the stages of grief are helpful. I’m still working on them.


The Face of the Crone

I journey to the desert
to seek the golden orb
to probe its mystic magistrations
and touch the flaming robes
Every step I leave behind
is blurred
a purpose now exposed
and dwarfed by this expansive panorama

I am blind
to all but hindsight
I follow
the logic that brought me here
and both directions lead
to endless precursions
or successions
I am lost
but for my feet
I have taken far too few footsteps
of my own

The light
this incumbent golden light
falls in leaden propagations
and erases all the contours of the land
It wipes out every imprint
every lingering image
covering the wounds of time

I have walked the moments
of my ancestry
to this point
relived, reviled and unveiled
this mark-ed past
and I wait atop the cliffs
for night to rise

Sleep not
whispering wind
come draw the desert lines
and pour the wrath of one more day
into the catacombs
I breathe the essence of this newest moon
subdivide and subtract the many parts
of the triumvirate plane
I croon beneath the full moon
and languish in the splendor
of unspoken power
Waiting now
had been second to the search
second to the journey
I see
it has become the journey

I have shed the outer landmarks
of my soul
in the blood of my mothers
passing through me
like a sieve
I have taken nourishment
from breasts
full, heavy and warm
Solace from soft arms
around me
but now I am alone
stretched thin
and worn
waiting in the desert

I have walked miles through this desert
to exorcise the many deaths
I bear witness to
to go beyond reason
to search out the plague
and come face to face
with all the ghosts I run from

In the barren sandscape
I have found her withered form
She is the waning moment
she is the dividing line
the divining light
and silver plaited dancer
Her movements
slow and heavy
in the afterbirth of death
are echoes of the shining lights
that burn in her black watery eyes

She is the oasis
and all the desert cannot hold her
The immortal paradox
she overflows
In death
she has life
In life
her womb has emptied
and her seed is the moonless night
filled with shadowy portents
She is the Stone-faced one
Thread cutter
Ghost Dancer
She will complete the spiral
she has torn up the foundations
and split me down the middle
dealt my deaths
paced my life
at every crossroads
I have met her
eyes averted
head bent
until now

I have shrugged
the wraiths that bind my pain
from off my back
And banished them into the desert
I have seen my own end
I have visited the cold, unyielding
places in my own heart
and I have plucked out the stones

I have walked many miles in the desert
and come home


The Poet’s Thoughts: A friend moved to Arizona and I visited her there. After that, I knew I belonged in the desert. I was also continuing to explore the feminine in spirituality through the images of the Triple Goddess. The desert and the crone went together in my mind and so this poem was born.



as the pristine view
so far removed
from every moment
I am
Encumbered by
in cryogenic
It is the still
distant horizon
that beckoned me
How like
dawn in Eden
a fragile token
this promise
and this prize
so clear at first
untainted and uncompromised
it is a lie
I followed
down through time
calling me
haunting me
Ever ghost
and ghostly
I am pulled
I am pushed
I am destined


The Poet’s Thoughts: I believe it was Socrates who said that the Truth (with a capital ‘T’) is something we can never know, but must always seek.


In these scattered moments
Life just gets bigger
The expanse it lays claim to
And my horizons
have all but disappeared
I am lost
and never in all of it
as now
have I wanted more
to remain lost

How the regions that I travel
become more tangled
This interwoven
meandering web
I hope to keep so busy spinning
I will not notice
that which passes by
that which passes me by
that I am better off without
Notice is a fly
It is caught
It escapes
and it leaves behind a hole
The original design
is never quite the same
too many heart pins tugging
have wrenched it from the consummation
of its creation
And somehow it is new
faintly reminiscent
of its holistic entirety

I walk this path
Too much
I have said
Too many times
I remain
lying in the grass by the side of the road
on the days
when I believe myself
when I have said it yet again
Too much
It is for me
a mantric cleanser
When I have scoured raw
the very inner core
that cries
too much
it finally agrees
and I begin to discard
littering behind me
the many moments I amass
and weigh me down
are falling on the autumn ground
are the octopus cloud
in which I hide
Not so much lost
as invisible

I am pouring through
a netted sieve
barely discernable shives
are the meager leavings
shining silver in the light
I have been ground so fine
and now I can scatter in the wind
like dust and ash


The Poet’s Thoughts: I went to Community College for 9 years. Nine years to make up for what I missed in high school and to take care of the first 2 years of a 4-year university. I had been saying for five years up until 1995 that I was going to quit my job and go to school full time to finish my degree in Physics. I said it out loud to convince myself, to put the idea out in the world and to commit myself to the goal. In 1995 I had to put my money where my mouth was. I actually applied to UC Berkeley on a whim more than anything else, because I never thought I would get in. I did. And my life suddenly got bigger.


He asked me once
what it was
I ran from

A force I cannot control
I told him
The animal

Some few moments
I let her out
metered moments


What harm this
he says
to shudder off the fetters

One million years
of hapless evolution
hold me back

But some nights
I hear her
desperate howling

And it is me
that calls
to him

And when I pace the floor
caught in some primal urge
that will not set me free

I put my head
between my knees
and pray for the night to be over

What possible consequences
trap me
in this fear

How far could it be
to travel beyond intellect
beyond reason

Beyond that which I know
is a place
I only dream of

And those dreams
disturb me
through the next day

wants to become conscious

wants to make her presence known

This is an unfamiliar

and I do not recognize
the hand that writes
my own thoughts

Where do I go to escape
or where instead
to meet head on

Yellow blazing eyes
reflect the dying light
of the sun

There is a hidden
living under the moon

A maelstrom
fights for life
in the calm

I fight for calm
and fear
or want the loss

is not a white flag
it is red with blood

And it is a gift
I have not yet been taught
to give

Relentless, though
the voice that asks
a resonant growl just barely heard

But when the moments
of the day
have been silenced and filed away

I am alone
the quiet rumblings

I am alone

She is crying out
and there is only
one answer

It is raw
It is savage
and untamed

It is carried on the wind
and it wraps around me
with impunity

Gently subdued
by this false vacuum of security
the icy wall begins to melt

I alone
am facing
the danger

or imagined
It is there

and I
opened myself
to it

I beckoned it
I reached for it
I succumbed to it


The Poet’s Thoughts: I have always felt that there is something inside me screaming to get out. I have always felt that I have to keep it contained. I still wonder what it would be like to let her out.


The Silence of the Dead—Birthday 1995

I wake this morning

to memories

the faces of the dead

have mouthed silent messages

for ten long years

why do their voices

tear me from my dreams


I will wake

from each sleep

until the morning

when I join them

I do not know if this interim

brings me closer

I only feel the distance

from a former life

Was it mine?

Or was it the dream?

So long

since I have paid the price for freedom

So many, many years

so much is only memory

Ten years past and more
I wake every morning

to the silence of the dead

but I am alive

they are dead

and silent once more.


The Poet’s Thoughts: It is odd to watch a ghost grow older. My daughter would have been ten years old. That meant ten years had passed by and what did I have to show for it? I had changed every aspect of my life, actually. But it never felt like it was enough. It still doesn’t feel like enough on some days.


Dark Sight (Winter Solstice 1995)

In the dark
In the dark
The unwashed stones
of winter’s edge
end this journey
in a pool of fallen tears
cumulative moments
within the passing years
that ripple out eternally

And a spark
mars the sharp
unyielding boundaries
of my temporal perception
somewhat blurred
and indistinct
the lines between
the real

the unnoticed

and the design
are fire to the triplicate
becoming link and chain
In the dark
I regard
the mask of death
intrinsically as foreplay
a gentle push toward
the nearest veil
heightened senses all awry
strained to catch
some fleeting glimpses
the subtle emergence

of a monumentous shift

Shadows part
Dark on dark
and that I sometimes fear
confronts me
I walk along the wavery line
the slippery stuff of phasic interchange
reacts to each and every step
and nothing remains the same
as even, looking back,

the past has changed

In the dark
in my heart
the wonder of the dawn
inspires me
leaden feet leave bitter heavy tracks
so much transpired between each step
and as I long for rites of spring
I marvel at the silent winter stones


The Poet’s Thoughts: Even though I had turned my back on Catholicism and its tenets, I knew that ritual was important. As human beings, I believe we need to celebrate, mark occasions and anniversaries and to grieve, and I believe that we need ritual to accomplish those. As far as I can tell, every religion has a celebration in the darkest time of the year. We need light in the dark.


Meditation on Change

Grant me the presence of mind

to appreciate the miracles

of unexpected change

Help me to open my heart

and to open my arms

Give me the flexibility

of a reed in the wind

and long standing strength

and patience

and help me keep sight of my dreams
Grant me the clarity
to distinguish

surrender from apathy

to act

with surety and empathy

And grant me

reliance in the faith

of what I know to be truth

Help me to acknowledge that truth

in all that I say and do

In the face

of unexpected change.


The Poet’s Thoughts: I began to write prayers and this was the first one. Yes, it is based on the Serenity Prayer. But it was my first attempt at interacting with, as opposed to just channeling, the source of my life.


The Gift

This moment is the one
my entire life revolves about
the stationary epicenter
within a whirling mass of details
and every moment to come
exists within it

The seeds I unknowingly
let fall
within this day
will bloom in my wonder
The portents I miss
will eventually unfold
as some machinery I set in motion
synchronizing the simple steps
of action-reaction pairs
from a single moment I was in

I have named this as my path
And I believe I follow
But I also know
I choose
And in looking back
I see a journey made of
the intersections I let loose

Buried deep within the questions
are the answers I truly seek
How many times I’ve turned away
frightened, displeased, confronted
by knowledge I didn’t want
and yet in asking
Formulating, perceiving
my recanting
finally, at once, realizing
the process itself
is the procession
of answer on answer
solutions and resolutions
held in the same moment
beholden, indeed,
inexplicably and intimately to my query

On my path I gather
wildflowers and pain
And what I draw to me
is the strength to remain walking toward
a sunset or a sunrise
a beginning or an end
And what is held in the trinkets
I have collected along my way
is the strength to endure

Every hole in my heart
is a window freshly paned
a crystalline clear view
And when I pick up
The tools to cut
I pick up the tools to
gently caulk and mold
and heal that hole

The meaning of the dream
is in the sleep that precedes it
The essence of a hope
is in the tragedy that caused it
The triumph of life
is with the one who lives it


The Poet’s Thoughts: I began to meditate at UC Berkeley and I think that may have been what got me through the Physics program. This poem came out of meditation.


Fortune tells
the prominent features
of my sacred evenings
The defining arrangements
all delphinic
and notably random
from my nonsecular view
However holy
or fantastic it may seem
All my life
is sewn together in a logical manner
in my perspective

thy fame is chance
and so much character
is poured anthropomorphically
onto a face we all might recognize
Although the eyes stare strangely
inward toward an event
we don’t ever want
to be brought near to
it haunts the prosaic meanderings
of meager moments
and reminds of wasted time

Love extends
beyond the muted boundaries
prolongs the anguish
and gives me you to hold
the quiet desperation
performs the many tasks
pushed until last
very last
until there is nothing left
but the barest outline
and that must sustain itself

Arguing in pennies
the very fortunate can turn their backs
and watch on the evening news broadcast
the cartoon lives
of people far removed
from their circle of friends
No touch can escape
that solid, solid sphere
and no heart breaks
locked in tiny mangled boxes

one to another
I trace the silhouette
of a life
on my television screen
Prayers may not be answered
but spoken they may survive
and reach out
past the pixels
and electrons
crowded together to form a face
an entity
the outer trappings of a complicated network
skin over bone

I tear the paper dolls
hearts that gather in one thin line
remarkably stretched
from horizon to horizon
and by the end of the day
my hands are cramped
but it is one of those days
I know I have accomplished something
In spite of the whims of fortune
or chance


The Poet’s Thoughts: I finished my degree at Berkeley and applied to graduate school. I chose University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, NM. When I arrived in Albuquerque, I felt that I had come home, even though I had lived in California my whole life. This poem was one of the first to come to me after I moved.

When I was in my thirties, continued…