Plain Talk Rising

By Mark Dow

Started out beseeching no idea whom, nevertheless
severed the breath for stutter-ride through suppleness
of ey, yoo, ee, aye, o, and, yep, the wye, so they’d retain
the openness they’ve risen from, limitations laid like maps across
the vastnesses and how these make a man feel trapped and free.
Projections of the t’s of streets and trees, the lamppost l’s,
across and flat on wide, wide boulevards and seemingly
inland in the outer band of a coastal plain,
an hour’s drive to water but well within reach of the flatness
manifest in land at level with the sea, afloat in lush humidity
of water oaks and palms and pines, whatever lay across the land,
our small yards, ballfields, parking lots, feeder roads alongside of and
entrance ramps onto the freeway perimeter locally known as the loop,
it all effortlessly carried us sky, wide floatings overland to sky
which always was already there with us, horizon everywhere,
each thought and every object at its brim and steadied there.
The sea we’re all beside insists the longing’s strongest up against
the body it cannot escape, where it diminishes to hold the place it fills,
where it belongs. Since everything stretched out as if there was no end
to spaciousness, we came to think that we were free. Between us, we
believed, were rooms of possibility. All that emptiness got into me.


The Caribbean Review of Books, March 2011

Mark Dow is writing a book of nonfiction called Each Thing Starts. His poetry manuscript Plain Talk Rising was a 2010 finalist for the New Issues Poetry Prize. His poems and prose have appeared recently in the Paris Review, New York Times, Agni, Killing the Buddha, and PN Review. He is author of American Gulag: Inside US Immigration Prisons (2004). He was born and raised in Houston, Texas, and currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. He can be reached at