Mark Cunningham

White-throated Robin

I looked at the half-spoonful of peanut butter I was eating and
saw on the empty part of the spoon a black blot.  A fly!  No--the
reflection of my hair.  After that, I don't mind--actually like--Rachel
Podger's version of Bach's sonatas for solo violin when Podger's
rasps for air cut through the music and breathe.


A marble slice, white, squarish, one-two inches thick, two to four
feet per side.  If I stand just right, leaning my gaze so that the light
hits the edge of the slab, then I see two slivers of light, one at the
marble's edge, one just inside it.  That's the milk that's poured on,
filling the shallowly scooped marble to near the edge, never
overflowing:  Wolfgang Leib's Milkstone.  Standing by it, I think of
Grecian marbles, young men, young women, which are really
yellowish though people think of them as blazing white from Roman
copies and bad philosophy, of calm poses, I almost said "poises,"
of how the milkstone shows that any unrifled surface is only a site of
strict tension:  but that doesn't convince me that it's a masterpiece. 
I think of Malevich's white square, a try to capture ultimate spiritual
truth, of Mondrian's white, of how those are now rendered
temporary, liquid, how it's a white my body resists, I see black dots,
decayed skin cells sliding on my retina.  But that doesn't convince
me.  I want to wait till 4:30 p.m., later, the galleries emptying, closing
time past, no one around, 4:30 a.m. say, then I want to put my nose
right to the milk and breathe in the sourness, the rot.  Then I'll be

Zone-tailed Hawk

The doctor rubbed the Q-tip over the plantar's wart to freeze it
off my left foot.  The wart glowed green, then I learned:  come colds
bite so hard they burn.  That was junior high.  For decades I ignored
lemon squares, then one Sunday I got one.  By Thursday, I could
tell you where the best lemon squares were; I could go on about the
quality of crusts, gooeyness of fillings, whether to use a fork.  What
seems like a wasteland is really ambush after ambush.  I'll sit with
almost-friends, small talk spreads like mildew, I don't want to tell
them about changing from Lefty Frizzell to Scarlatti, I don't know
what they don't want to tell about, nobody wants to articulate a new
interest, separate and identify its parts as if it's already embalmed. 
We chuckle at each other's impolite remarks.  Now I know:  some
fires flash so fast that they leave you chilled.

Vaux's Swift

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, Freud or somebody said.  But
others it can unroll wings and, instead of smoldering to smoke and
an acrid aftertaste, flare into a bolt of dust, prying, hunger, and
"vertical entry."  Looking into a clear June sky, doing nothing in the
kitchen, there's often more energy than  you expect.  "Tip-toe, tip-
toe" shifts to "tzeeeerip."  "I thought you wanted to be held," I said. 
She answered, "You were holding me."

Mark Cunningham received an MFA from the University of Virginia, and stills live in the Charlottesville area, an easy day-trip to the museums in Washington, DC.  Mark's poems have appeared in The Prose Poem: An International Journal and the Bellevue Review; a larger selection of poems, on parts of the body, appears on the Mudlark website.


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