Djelloul Marbrook


I envision evolution towards androgyny, so I'm interested in what seems to me predictive indicators in people. I think this sensibility is rooted in witnessing my aunt and mother, both artists, struggle for something remotely like fairness in a male-dominated culture.



Improv in a museum

She mounts an exhibition 
of her kids driving her mad,
glancing at me slyly
to be sure of my attention.
This spectacle of undressing
bad decisions in a museum
would in a real civilization
be arrested by the guards,
but here among frozen gods
it passes for motherhood.
God help you, children,
bringing this girl up—
she’ll never forgive you
for being lousy props.
Please, lady, don’t sit down
next to me where I can smell
the pettiness of your beauty.



What are you looking at?

She whom you see waiting for the light,
getting in a cab, she is not the one
you think she is. Her silky hair
is a vipers’ nest in the corner of your eye,

the corner that scares you half to death,
that can’t be exorcized. She is the one
who claims to have your number, claims
a secret she may someday tell you

if you behave according to certain rules
which she will reveal to you at the proper time,
but not now and not back then
when you proved yourself unworthy of her.

To go on looking for her is more fun
than knowing this, and someday she will look
straight at you from across the street
and you will know if you have heart for this.




Djelloul Marbrook’s book of poems, Far from Algiers (Kent State University Press, 2008) won the 2007 Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize. His story “Artists' Hill,” from an unpublished novel, won the Literal Latté fiction prize in 2008. Recent poems have been accepted by American Poetry Review, Oberon, Reed, The Same, The Ledge, Istanbul Literary Review, Arabesques Literary and Cultural Journal, Damazine, Attic and Perpetuum Mobile. He worked for many years as a reporter and editor for newspapers including the Providence Journal, Elmira Star-Gazette, Baltimore Sun, Winston-Salem Journal, Washington Star, and others. He lives in New York’s mid-Hudson Valley with his wifeMarilyn.