The Brooklyn Rail

MARCH 2022

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MARCH 2022 Issue


from The End of America, Book 10

I see why people
                             say they want
               something big to happen

                                             in the big world--

               something to stop
               others from hoarding what
                                                                           they have

while jail cell keys are turned on some

               Something to stop the organized

                                             public robbery and stern
                                                                           authoritative political lip

designed to misdirect hunger

               but myself, I don’t

                                             want the big crazy

                                                             I don’t want war
                                                             don’t trust revolutions

and their new
               opportunities for conniving
                                                                           under new banners

                             and new assemblies

               I don’t want an event to carry me laughing
                                             into some promised
                                                                           new wild sun

               I want there to be

                             no need for big things

                                                             no need for people

to hope that history will pull
                                                             them up

               no need to be full-throated furious

                                             I want small things:

                                                                           for someone to look

               up and say,
               “I’m glad

                                                             we’re talking,
                                                                            I’m glad I’ve made

                             a thing I’m proud of”

and not just someone but everyone, see

                                             as small as that

               and in it, a revolution

                                                                  would be a thing

carried away, not the people in it

                             such a small
                             thing that all the big

                                                                things would be small inside it

                                                                like a moment

in which people might recognize themselves

                                             and not


                                                                              the world they’ve made

                                                                                                                                                      (November 2011)

from The End of America, Book 18

If real news

               is the fact of rich

                                people plundering

the poor even

                                                in dreams, then this street

               of puddled water

                             splashing up at the feet

                                            of people with nowhere


                                                                         to go is the basis

               on which the vacation

                               city builds its high rise

fantasies of ease


                                                           that politics preserves

                                                           the constant

                                             saying that not much

                              reveals more

                                                                         than struggle does

                                                                                                                      helps me walk
                                                                                                                      along while laughing

                                                                                                        faces pass,

raincoats          knit sweaters             tilted hats

                                            shoulders drawn
                                                                           up in wind

                   Nothing less than experience as

                                                                it presents

                                                 itself calls
                                                                           for acknowledgement

                                                                                                        un-isolated instant
                                                                                                                                                   then another

                                There’s no way to avoid

                                                                          giving back the particles

                                                                                                                      of a body

                                                                                                                      to the air,

                                                                                         hoarding doesn’t

                                                                                                                      prevent loss

                                                                        That sucking sound,

                                                                        the breath that cannot

                                                                                                                                    draw itself,

                                                        is all the grasping

                   to control the streets the buildings the trees the sky

                                                        happening at once—

                                                                                      which has never

                                                 saved even one

                                                 person from death

                                                                                                                                                                                      (February 2017)

from The End of America, Book 20

Is dirt different

               on top of a high hill

                              looking down on neighborhoods divided

                                                            by a tech influx
                                                                                          of hasty millionaires

The old streets,

                              the city’s spine,

                              become home to new generations

               seeking gold or trade or to buy up buildings,

                                             displacing old new-world dreams,

                              the “heterosexual dollar” eyeing

                                                                           through the Ginsberg ghost light

                                             its own denuded landscape

Where now will new ways to live
                                                         take themselves off to?

Time is a poor mistaken measure

                                of the way dirt moves--

                                                                              see it or not
                                                                              from this hill or that--

                                             at last we glimpse
                                                                              the limits of ourselves--

and I am peering down

                              through layers of shattering crystal cloud

                                             at high rises, highways,
                                                            houses, warehouses

               above earth plates that often shift,

                                                                           thinking of who

                                                                           found homes and stayed here and died,

               who came here and went and came here

                                                                                                         and went,

                                             of dreams of wholeness that welcomed the weird

                                                            and the time to go,

                                                            wheels above stone and dirt

                                                                           over hills and wide plains

                              bringing the next ones, never waiting

                                             but pushing up from the ground

                                                                                                                                                                        (San Francisco 03/16/19 for Suzanne)


Mark Wallace

Mark Wallace lives in San Diego and is the author or editor of a number of books of poetry, fiction, and essays. The End of America is a multi-part long poem in a variety of formats that he has been writing since 2005. Sections from it have appeared in several chapbooks and many poetry magazines.


The Brooklyn Rail

MARCH 2022

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