Mark J. Mitchell studied writing at UC Santa Cruz under Raymond Carver, George Hitchcock and Barbara Hull. His work has appeared in various periodicals over the last thirty five years, as well as the anthologies Good Poems, American Places, Hunger Enough, Retail Woes and Line Drives. It has also been nominated for both Pushcart Prizes and The Best of the Net. He is the author of two full-length collections, Lent 1999 (Leaf Garden Press) and Soren Kierkegaard Witnesses an Execution (Local Gems) and two chapbooks, Three Visitors (Negative Capability Press) and Artifacts and Relics, (Folded Word). His novel, Knight Prisoner, is available from Vagabondage Press and two more novels are forthcoming: A Book of Lost Songs (Wild Child Publishing) and The Magic War (Loose Leaves). He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the documentarian and filmmaker Joan Juster.
The burning stopped. He wondered why—A god
was saving him—closing off the furnace
and wiping flames from his skin. So beyond
this earth, suffering must be of less use
than priests told him. He thought it was quite odd
though, sure as he was of Hell. Endurance
was his prayer—that was his skill—he’d plod
along steady, he never needed rest.
His eyes stayed closed, held fast. He wondered why—
Maybe a goddess dropping a cool tear
to soothe his lids so he could learn to cry
again (a quiet child, mother said—she feared
demons at night). His head jerks to the sky.
A knife from nowhere cuts too quick for fear.