Poetry: Selections from Mark Belair

Field Truck

An old, scuffed pickup truck
sits sunk in the corner of a cornfield;
a workhorse, clearly, in its day, overhauled
many times, so made of spare parts, so
itself but not: a beautiful relic
that could have been sold, or
at least respectfully retired
by the barn on blocks, but instead
stays field-stuck as if forgotten
by the farm family, become, for them,
an overgrown memory that won’t start up,
though it will someday for the children
who now play in its forbidden interior,
pretend-driving it, picking up other kids,
speeding, braking hard, and swerving,
the sunken truck risen—
from neglect and disobedience—
to a second, memorable life.


First a trout,
snacking on surface insects,
goes crazy in the water
in a way other trout might
behold with dread, then
leaps out of the water,
never to splash
back in.
Wise in the ways
of rapids, pools, and currents—still,
no creature can know
what no creature can know.
The silver river
the earth
like a glittering fish
to feel the setting sun
the long stretch of its back,
to feel the strangeness
of ranging
into an airy place
it knows it would die in over time.
This flowing yet
fish who can afford
to frolic with fatality,
its brilliant journey
ever commencing, ever continuing, ever
in its ocean home.

piled in the cool of a dark closet / for decades / my teenage dreams of jazz drumming / remained preserved / inside downbeat magazines
culling mementos in later life / i took the magazines out and / thinking they might interest a collector / started to sequence them / from 1965 to 1970 / the last issue dated the august before i left home / to study jazz drumming in boston
but soon the work slowed / for i found that each cover / was one i remembered / and as i worked through the stack / of nearly two hundred / i came to see / gradually / the essence of the teenager i was / not as myself looking back / but as a stranger looking on
looking on to this teen / practicing alone in his basement / for hours / his focus intense / exclusive / forbidding
to this teen drumming along with jazz records / his head hung low to listen for musical statements he could engage / statements exalted / lyric / unexpected / yet unsurprising / statements / above all / authentic
to this teen living / through the edgy existentialism of improvisation / in the multifariousness jazz offered / so living in revelations / born from beyond his confined experience
to this teen needing / by way of jazz drumming / to come to know himself / to be saved
then this teen / to my shock / raised his head as he played / and looked me in the eyes
and i saw that he saw / in his level / demanding / gaze / exactly what / through my lifelong / multifarious / drumming career / i had made of him
and saw that he saw / to my unexpected salvation / no stranger

The fire started
in an abandoned building
beside an old stone church.
The building collapsed,
and the church, behind its graceful
facade and steeple, stood
gutted out.
Plumes of smoke
rose from the rubble
and wafted into the open-sky space
where the congregation once prayed.
The fire chief, overheard, judged
restoration unlikely, then warned
the gathering, stricken parishioners
to move along, for smoke
from such old buildings
could damage their lungs.
that, drifting out
melted stained-glass windows,
permeated the parish area.
the disbelieving believers—
straining the borders
of the cordoned-off area—
inhaled for hours, already sick.

The Fragile Goblet
I rubbed a smudge off a wineglass.
It snapped to pieces.
Which resurrected
a buried feeling.
The goblet about the size
of a human heart.
As for the goblet, I simply
got another.

Mark Belair’s poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Alabama Literary Review, Harvard Review, and Michigan Quarterly Review. He is the author of seven collections of poems and two works of fiction: Stonehaven (Turning Point, 2020) and its sequel, Edgewood (Turning Point, 2022). He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize multiple times, as well as for a Best of the Net Award.