Button sewn to our skin, the thread bitten off by the eternal seamstress, the darner of celestial socks.
Sewn to our chests that way, you would think it holds body and soul together, the only button on the flesh coat.
But it’s more like the flower that never bloomed nine months after it was planted—the tight, waxy petals a scar from a wound we had nothing to do with and know nothing about.
Every now and then I imagine the dead lined up for as far as I can see outside a telephone booth in a railroad terminal. Everything is silent. Nothing moves. As if the dead waited endlessly for the phone to ring, part of a museum exhibit where the locomotives bulk cold and still in the background.
When young we stare at ourselves in the mirror, poking and prodding it, giving it our full attention.
Later, admiring the beauty of our bodies reflected in the glass, we forget that it’s there, don’t even notice its mark between heart and groin.
Old, we stand with arms at our sides, staring at what we’ve become, the sagging belly, the flaccid breasts, and with a longing we can’t understand, our eyes return to its puckered circle, the plugged connection, the scar we never understood, the waxen bud that never bloomed.
Mort Marcus paid good attention to the world, and, like Francis Ponge, he paid good attention to the language we use to talk about the things of the world. Time after time Mort created object poems like “Navel” that serve as evidence not only of his attention to the world and to objects and to language, but to the relationships of people to objects and language, which is probably why so many of his fellow poets loved and admired him. Peter Johnson says of Mort:
What I remember most about Mort was his generosity and absence of ego. Certainly, Mort was a fine verse and prose poet, moving effortlessly between the two forms, but it was his interest in others and in life’s particulars that informed his life and work. When I invited Mort to my college, the gig was to visit one class and do a reading. Mort did three classes, and would have probably taught three more if they were available. He didn’t do the extra work to be nice or so he could hear himself talk endlessly (though Mort could certainly talk). He was always in the state of perpetual intellectual agitation. Sometimes he could seem belligerent about it, but you knew no one-upmanship was involved. He realized life was short, so why screw around being nicey-nice about ideas. Let’s go at it and try to discover why the hell we’re here and how poetry fits into it all. Probably what I’ll miss most about Mort is his optimism, especially at a time when so much contemporary poetry is laden with fashionable irony and cynicism, so that it often sounds like dialogue from a second-rate sit-com. Mort was an authentic voice. Fortunately, he left a great deal of terrific poems behind.