Issue > Poetry
Marcus Whalbring

Marcus Whalbring

Marcus Whalbring has published two books of poetry: Just Flowers published by Crooked Steeple Press; and Topiaries, which he published himself. He lives with is wife and son in Indiana where he works as a high school teacher.

Where There's Smoke

The frost comes early, staining memories
of stained leaves, then we wonder if we were
ever among the streets of neighborhoods,
ever contained in some way that felt like
we were cared for. Events take place as days
warm and come on, the streaks of them, new and
familiar, in the depths of us, the streams
and wind that stretch for miles. It's been a while
since we went down and walked with hemlocks
at our hips, listening to the sky's one-sided
voice, even if we harbor some aversion
to heat, because if we belong to places
that don't exist, we're more responsible
for those that make events of waiting; in
being conscious of that and being speech     
reverberating into nothing but
itself in isolation of the hills,
so I remind myself that I put myself
into the earth in such a way that there
were more than ages, more than wounds I had
not spared, that I would have to wait here
until I'd burned sufficiently in this
remembered valley, in the creases of
its hollow palm. In spite of myself I
begin to see why I remembered it:
So was it possible that I'd set fire
to these fields when I was a child? There were
distinguishable scars among the spindling
where, on the other hand, the cows tasted
the cultivating tip of that first flame
that whispered underneath my fingertips.
It was late winter, and I'd found myself
looking up at the blank sky, trying to
decide if all the falling flakes were snow
or ash. Or maybe my eyes were a part
of that ash, those discarded fragments
of leaf or branch. I start to wonder
if I'd been there at all, if there'd been some
kind of familiarity that was not
enough. Was I there that day, sitting on
the hill above all sound, and shouldn't I
believe myself for now if I say yes?
I'd turned away from what we thought of as
the western Cold. Three days of wakeful burning.
I was beside the end of wonder but
not near the end of wondering, and knew
the sun was nothing worth talking about,
not yet, and neither were the hyacinths
threatening the world with their surviving bursts
of yellow. This feels close, I thought, to being
something someone who isn't lost would say to
a field of candles that had just gone out.

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