Mark DeCarteret


Another Myth About Prose Poems

The less about labyrinths. As if it’s still thinking me a liability. The same goes for posturing, props. An inflatable anything. It seems more concerned with that monster of being. Itself. Never playing at catch-up. Or pimping itself to a mirror. Instead, forgoing all history. What I’ve mistook getting past it. How it relishes its own contradiction! Foraging the page for some proof of its existence. And me. Right beside it. Along with the words I have long left behind. More at home with that monster than they’ll ever be with me.





Apocalypso Snow


All night they’d hacked through mistletoe. Connie’s machete, thick with holly berry, whistled pitiably through the jungle air. “This heat is ridiculous,” she said. “Impenetrable. Opaque. I’m breaking out all over.” Russ, leaning against a needleless fir massaging his temples, managed, “I think someone slipped something into the nog at the office party. Those abominable co-workers!” After crossing a sluggish stream they came to a clearing, the unexpected relief of cool stone beneath them. Connie thought she heard a baby’s cry but it was only a large star gripping onto the last remnants of night. In the distance, robed in diaphanous clouds and vines, stood a gigantic relic—a long-bearded man with a pipe and a gut the size of a small landfill. “I’ve heard of cholesterol hardening the arteries,” cracked Russ. Out of nowhere, forty or so tiny persons emerged from the brush, their pointy ears pierced with turtledove bones, skulls-for-bells at the ends of each shoe. As Connie focused her binoculars the sun began squeezing itself out from a coil of pink mist. Debris, mostly white and lethargic, salted the eyelashes of everyone present. “What brand of mayhem have we stumbled upon?” asked Connie. Like an aluminum can rumbling out from the depths of some diabolical machine, a tour bus pulled up spewing its toxins and passengers into the square. Senior citizens decked out in identical sweats, snapped photos of the elves and themselves. A near-sepulchral figure draped in tropical print led his oxygen tank through the crowd. A mangy teen, “I DISCOVERED CHRISTMAS!” raked across his t-shirt, pocketed the nose of a sacrificial goat while his buddy lapped bits of peanut shells off of four or five unruly chin hairs. Russ turned to point out the jet skywriting overhead but Connie had run off to join in with the reindeer games. Something head-shaped, bagged in burlap, bounced into his path. Wishing he’d paid better attention when Mr. McNamara discussed Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” with his 8th grade English class, Russ slumped to the ancient tiles, his soul mangled, his ticker a black clump, and his head a scrapped documentary. “The merriment,” he lisped. “The merriment.”





He wakes up trying to think of the actor who had played himself in the dream. Although the actor he dreamt of looked nothing like he did or the way the actor looked in real life. In fact the actor looked more like a very old friend of his. One he hadn’t seen in a very long time. Or even more like that actor everyone was always telling his friend he looked a lot like.

He thinks of waking up the person sleeping next to him. The shape of someone resembling the wife in a popular sitcom. Though they don’t look anything like anybody he knows. On the TV that is. Well, maybe a little like that actor who only does commercials now. But more like they did when they hosted that game show. But right now they could be anyone, he thinks to himself. Even his friend from a long time ago. Or the actor who looked something like him.

A dog enters the room. It looks like just about every dog you see entering a room to wake someone up on a very dramatic biopic. Or commercial for that matter. Except there doesn’t seem to be that same urgency for him to get up out of bed. And see to something. The figure next to him moves. They call out for the dog, tapping the top of the bed aside of them. He can’t see their hand but it sounds like his wife. Or someone who sounds like he remembers her sounding. He didn’t quite make out what she called the dog but it was one of those typical names for a dog in a thriller who’ll be the first to get it. Like Denny or Spit Curl. His friend he hasn’t seen in a long time’s name was Martin. Martin McLemore. Or was Martin the name of the character the actor who looked like him played on the show? He could never be sure.

He asks the wife waking up next to him if she can remember the name of the actor who used to look just like his old friend. The one you haven’t seen in a very long time, she asks? Or your actor friend? I have an actor friend, he asks her? When I say friend, she says, it’s only because you know him from playing you on that TV show. Does he look anything like me, he asks? Only like you would, she says, in one of your dreams.





Mark DeCarteret’s work has appeared in the anthologies American Poetry: The Next Generation (Carnegie Mellon Press), Places of Passage: Contemporary Catholic Poetry (Story Line Press) and Thus Spake the Corpse: An Exquisite Corpse Reader 1988-1998 (Black Sparrow Press). A chapbook (If This Is the) New World was just released from March Street Press.