I hid it

A short piece.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

buried
in a sunny spot
between the shade of two trees
a treasure

I hid it
you know where it is
I hid it
you know it is there

I never showed you
if I even knew
what there was
to show

I’m digging
between yesterday
and today
for that treasure

I always wanted
you to see it
but I’m only digging
and it’s no longer sunny

© 2021 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved

always something before and

A short piece.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

and I haven’t written in a while
haven’t even thought of it
and I’m stuck on coordinating conjunctions
as if continuing sentences running on and on
and I can’t see how the sentence began
and I know
and it’s on the tip of my tongue
and I know
but
another coordinating conjunction
it’s been too long

© 2021 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved

Play Doh

A short piece.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I’ve found that little piece of Play Doh
went missing around the age of 4 or 5
I found that little piece of Play Doh
stuck somewhere between my
kidneys, ribs, lungs and heart.

I can’t quite make it out
but I can feel it giving way
to the pressure of my fingers
I can feel that joyful squish
running up my hands, arms
and dancing in my brain
just how I remember it

I found a little piece of Play Doh
given up for lost
I’m not sure how much is left
but I’m running it through my fingers
making fart noises, bubbles and
molding it to the shape of organs

I’m holding tight to a little piece of Play Doh
and my eyes light up
and I can’t see it
but I think it was blue
and I realize, it’s just as soft
as I am

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved

Chipping scabs, touching stars

A short piece.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

standing on a pile of pain
touching that middle star
in Orion’s belt
where grandpa said he’d be
waiting for me

dancing on floor made of
cracked and splintered bone
skin stretched thin
scarred pink and white
I dance, heals chipping scabs
fingers reaching for the stars

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved

I can forsake you too

A short piece.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I walk with a limp
two devil’s on my shoulder
both on one side
my right leg shakes
fearing each step

two devil’s on my shoulder
both on one side
one sat down, gently
with grandpa’s big smile
and the weight of Orion’s belt buckle

the other
splashing spirits
pressing against glass
shouting “one more”
a spluttering cry

Succorer!
grant me serenity
accepting two devil’s on my shoulder
courage
for these trembling steps
wisdom
to know which foot
one foot at a time

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved

Filmed poem – The heart slaps along

A filmed version of a poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

A friend of mine and I were testing out his new camera rig, playing around with different shots at a park. He took the footage and made the below. What do you think?

The Heart Slaps Along” Written by Marcus Jonathan Chapman. Filmed, edited and read by Patrick Garrett York.

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved

Coffee black

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

coffee
black
like my soul
and other
poorly written
poesy

what is the soul?
nothing

coffee
black
like my lungs

coffee
black
like my humor
like fingernails
like that smoke stain
on the back of my
front tooth

coffee
black
like gunk in the drain
like dog nails
like tires

coffee
black
like letters perched
on invisible wire
chirping of the soul
of nothing

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

Cajon and Vine

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

sit
under gray clouds
and burnt sky
under waving patriotism
tattered

sit
next to bubbling youth
and bike racks
under manicured palms
weeping

sit
in the shadow of god’s cage
and tides of cars
like rolling waves
disappearing

sit
on the rounded corner
of
Cajon
and
Vine

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

Made of stone

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Find yourself a house
made of brick
or cement
cinder block, if you can find it

find yourself a house
made of stone
and sit
sit in the middle

when the sun comes
and there is no wind
and the asphalt ripples with fever
sit in the house
and watch yourself baking
getting soft
sweat slapping at your eyes
sweat clumping your hair
      twisting and curling on your neck
stare at the unit
cut into the stone
don’t touch it
stare and know your body works
you have walls, a roof
and that is convenience

get yourself a house
made of stone
and sit
sit in the middle

when the clouds come
and the trees whistle
and the specter of breath lingers
sit in the house
watch yourself tighten
sealing in the juices
blood oozes and muds
blood sculpting clay
      in the fingers and toes
think of fire
suck down booze
imagine a woman resting against you
but stare
stare at those tight walls
taught as your skin
and know that is comfort

get yourself a house
made of stone
and know what the rib cage
is to the heart

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

Farting Hillary Clinton’s

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I was caught
between a train, teetering
and a cliff, eroding
hot coals spilled from the tops of the cars
but spot
would block them from searing me
the train passed and I walked back
on the highway
got on the next train and
a girl in a dress
asked me if I wanted to play video games
we giggled all the way to the arcade
I pushed in two quarters
and we
played Farting Hillary Clinton’s
then I woke up to
snoring dogs
and thirst
and the taste of iron on my tongue

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

Out of living bone

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Make me a phone
out of living bone
Caulk it with marrow
wrap it in tissue
strap it with muscle
give it some skin
            Taught but thin
pump it with blood
valve in some veins
connect it to nerves
massage in a brain
calve in a heart
            some pieces missing
pop in some eyes
maybe some thighs
wedge in a nose
             maybe some freckles
tack on some ears
            oh
            the eyes should have tears
throw on some arms
            and fingers that hinge
toss on some legs
            with toes that wiggle
slap on a mouth
            one I can kiss
call in a soul
            one I won’t miss

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

A text from Saul at 11:56 AM

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

How’s it going my favorite fuck face?
Got off work at 10 already buzzed
working 6 days and this is my day off.
Sandy got sick last week so I couldn’t
come out. Come to find out third Covid test
is a charm. Now everyone in the house
has it except Tommy. He stayed at
grandma’s house right when she really got sick.
So grandma doesn’t want visitors.
Totally understandable.
I’ve been calling him, and he just gets sad.
I offered to send him toys and help me pick.
He said I want my papa for 100 days.
Shit day off.

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

The ants are back

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

The ants are back looking for my food
out from their hole in the dirt and weeds
through the gap in the sliding glass door

The ants are back looking for their food
and I don’t see them until they wind
around the trash can and chair legs
to corners un-swept and dots sticky

The ants are back looking for my food
and they are ready and I am not
I say tomorrow, they eat today
my food, their food, the ants go marching
one by one, they are ready, I am not

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

This heart

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

This heart
belongs in a zoo
next to hyenas and baboons
next to lizards and bones
it
thumps boorish grunts
beats, cleaved,
in the curling tines of its cage

This heart
pumps
fossils and weeds
dying wheelbarrows
squeezing out rust

this heart
presses
black coffee
shatters windows
splinters doors

this heart
pulls from barbs
lights Molotov’s
rolls in whiskey and glass


this heart
hisses and smokes

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

Only marrow enough

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I am bone tired
the tongue no longer salivates
there is no roar
in my chest
only enough strength
to listen

And beauty slathers itself
on rusted sheds
cricket legs
a field of dust and weeds

only marrow enough
in my paintbrush bones
to listen

and the beautiful
hums in the fridge
slaps in the leaves
whistles in my nose
wheezes in my chest

My chest
just strong enough
to listen

for beautiful

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

I don’t want to smoke

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I don’t want to smoke
and I sneak away
to coffee shops
and think about smoking
I drink coffee
read
Listen to people talk
people laugh
and I read the same line
and I read the same line
and I read the same line
I close the book
and don’t stare
don’t stare
don’t stare
I finish my coffee
grab my book
head back home
and I read
I think about smoking
and I read the same line
and I read the same line
and I read the same line
I stand up
pace outside
get in my car
and go to a coffee shop

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

Now I have the time

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Now I have the time
to pay attention to the names
of musicians
both living and dead
      Michael Nyman
      Philip Glass
      Alexander Borodin
      Katie Von Schleicher

and I take pride because
I feel what they create
and now I know their names

Now I have the time
to pay attention to my
backyard
the gophers have gone
I killed all the weeds
the wild parrots, escaped
from the pet store
50 years ago, gather
on the power line above
my easement
the Blue Jay’s cocking heads
and hopping
around the gopher holes
finding grubs
And I take pride because
they are part of my lot
and now I know their names

And now I have the time
to pay attention to the names
the names not belonging to me
or to the other one
I have the time to pay attention
because I have only time

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

I know a great writer

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I know a great writer
but you don’t
her greatness is planted
in not knowing, not
thinking she is great
and I know she is
a great writer
but she doesn’t and
she writes anyway
and I write but
I try not to think of
my standing
my standing over
or standing under the
writing of other writers
and I stand up
and I think of the words
and the words I don’t know
but that great writer writes
knowing nothing of her greatness
and I write but
I stand and go outside
taking off my shirt to let the sun
soak in
and I think of her greatness
and not my own
and she doesn’t
think of me

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

lazy day with nothing to say

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

lazy day with
nothing to say

the sun soaks
sludge bilks’ thoughts
mudslides smooth
peaks and valleys
to a single plateau

my mind, the sun, un-seeable
a walnut dazed
windows glazed in
snow buried, re:
whites, grays, haze
Trieved to a
Saint slobbering Bernard

Cocoa steams
streams magma flings
in loosening dreams
through the windows
of the sun, sloths
in heat buildup speed
and spew their sperm
soaked thoughts:

slow swimming sludge
obsidian’s cakes tectonics
quake meridians plates

lazy day with
nothing to say

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

Inside my chest there lives a cat

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Inside my chest I found a cat
I called it names to which it spat
‘til desperation made me scream
I know not, love, for what you dream
and then it nuzzled, flicked its tail
a cry of love found holy grail
still at my touch, bared tooth and nail
so I stay hid from love’s impale

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

And Paul

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

And Paul
I love you
brother

we want to see beauty
and we’re the same
with different words
so I choose carefully

we met in a circle
sharing our pain
and I could see it
and you could see it
thorns

through cigarettes
and ping pong
cups of pills
we saw the things
that broke us
crystalline

love
family
friends
structure
authority
time not ours
bills
regrets
love
being alone

nothing so abstract
nothing faceless

we graduated
from beeping hallways
and single file lines
to check-ins and check-outs
and broken curfew fines

And we finished our time
maybe got perspective
I went back to work
you went back
to the gatehouse

Then you had a kid
and I got married
we spoke on the phone
about all under which
we were buried

You called
now and then
from the road
I called
once and again
from my home

The kid started school
I got divorced
life felt so cruel
you fell out
and stayed at my house

And we laughed at the news
when we started to drink
and we cried in our shoes
when our egos would shrink

And I had to remind you
kitchen knives were for food

and blood
is too close to the surface
in all of us

And I remembered
how I used to be
and we both agreed
that you should leave

And for years
before nights were done
we talked about
beauty
and you said
we’re the same
and I agreed
but I want to see
the beauty

and Paul
there’s no beauty
in the bottle
we’ve both checked

and Paul
beauty is pain
because we feel it

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

Until I get to later

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I’ll die of exhaustion
tired of being alone
maybe head to Austin
forget to bring my phone

Throw on grandpa’s sweater
we had the same frame
drive until I wanna stop
look for something tame

No clinking brick to weigh me down
to wonder if to smile or frown
just stop for gas in dying towns
give knowing nods to wayward clowns

Stop by the road and find a tree
jot down the words, say poetry
throw my pens and pages in the back
drive off and think of what they lack

Distract away
her ringing words
“I’ll call you later”
later
later
later
later
later
later

And I’ll keep driving
until I get to later

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

Please

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Please
Don’t take the pills
Changing chemistries
Raising new ills

Those dark shadows
Swirling

Let them feed
Through words
To paper eaters
Devouring

Let them loose
Through color
To open windowed souls
Cowering

Let them twirl
Not suppress
Give them life
Beyond the chest

Let them powder
Through noise
To wax drums
Quivering

Let them dance
Through monologues
To cymbal-ed monkeys
Chattering

Please
Don’t take the remedies
Blessing new enemies
Depressing heart break

Those dark shadows
Swirling

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

And I want to be the king of my castle

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

And I want to be the king of my castle
And I feel like a pauper in my home
And I need to be master of my domain
And I believe no man should be alone

And I want to flit about on empty floors
And I feel the scream of doubt that clogs my pores
And I need cold water to wake me up
And I believe no answers are found in a cup

And I want my friends to know I am here
And I feel my family hold on to a tear
And I need a fresh face without a mask
And I believe no answers to questions they ask

And I want to find words that aren’t in a book
And I feel too much pain will allow me to look
and I need a new name to reflect all these changes
And I believe no pen is worthy of these exchanges

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

It was the times

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

It was the times
I teased too hard
And
It was the time
After sex
I asked a stupid question
And
It was the time
Before intimacy
I asked a stupid question
And
it was the time
I drove to you
Drunk
And
It was the time
I came over
from the night before
Still stinking of booze
And
It was the times
I went out
“to catch a slice of life”
I said
And
It was the time
At the urgent care parking lot
I shared a cig
With another waiting for his girl
And
It was the times
I couldn’t express
But I wanted to be alone
And
I walked past you
To take out the trash
As if another wall
And
And there is more
And
I write them out
So plainly
Too quickly
And
I feel them
Like paper
cuts

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

Youthful Beauty

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Youthful Beaty
nods and smiles
at graying experience
the coolness of
sweaters
Jackets
shirts
Sagging in all the right places
Betrays
The pursuit of success
Cleavage shines and rings
skirts high tail
chandelier leggings
locked eyes
loose legs

Meanwhile

Armies of
Scabbed hands
bruised arms
oxygen tanks
vet hats
social security cheques
keep the boat
Floating

The pianist’s fingers bleed
for the raised voice
recognition
of barfly’s and
passersby

Five claps for the piano man
and I write on torn
sheets of a legal pad
trying to understand what I’m doing

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

I tried to bet the ponies

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I tried to bet the ponies
Like Bukowski
But my math is atrocious

I tried drinking
Like Hemingway
But the loneliness was unbearable

I tried writing
Like Joyce, Miller and Burroughs
But my mind is too chaotic

I tried meditating
Like Cheever
But there’s too much fight in my chest

I tried uppers and downers
Like Thompson
But clarity was elusive

I tried
I’ll try

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

Forced words

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Forced words
The thing won’t come
The thing won’t happen
Worse
I don’t know what thing is

Forced words
At a casino
Between sweepers
Smokers
Losers
chirps
Winners
Chimes
Losers

Forced words
Because
That fight
in my chest
crawls down
to my hands

it’s shit
the feeling
it’s shit
the forced words

A train not even crashing
No explosion
Just quietly retiring
Off the tracks

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

If you’re lucky enough

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

If you’re lucky enough
You’ll fly to the moon
Through blue flame eyes
Glowing cross the table
And you’ll hear
Louis Armstrong’s growling timbre
I’m in heaven, I’m in heaven.

And if you pay attention
Sinatra will croon
between your ears
I thought of quitting, baby
but my heart just ain’t gonna buy it
and you’ll float over the moon
aiming for those sapphire eyes
twinkling across the table

And if you’re lucky enough
time will stop
and you’ll realize there is only
what is in front of you
and like melting butter
Irma Thomas will drip
in your ears
Anyone who knows what love is
will understand

And if you let yourself go
you’ll bloom in a shimmering galaxy
of golden hair
and Minnie Riperton’s soft melody
will patter in your ear
Kiss my petals
and weave me through a dream

And if you’re lucky enough
you’ll stand still
tethered by a kiss
in a Stater Brother’s parking lot
while the world spins
your body will buzz and hum
and you’ll hold your own song

And if you hold on to it
you’ll write about it
filling pages
with a universe of words
you’ll run out of ink
you’ll run out of words
but those azure eyes
will forever be empyreal

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

And it’s in my chest

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

And it’s in my chest
And I think about Blanca
And I think about me
And I think about the dogs
And I never start from the beginning
And the monologue never stops
And I’m trying to fall asleep
And I fall into another line
And I stay awake
And I want to be a better man
And I don’t know what that means
And I keep pushing keys
And my hands grab for tools
And my palms tingle
And every line starts to continue
And I hate it
And I love to hate it
And it’s cliché
And I recognize it is cliché
And I keep pressing down
And I think of a pianist
And I want to make music
And I hate the things my fingers leave
And I make noise
And I clang
And I bang
And I push
And every line starts the same
And I try to scrape the fever
On keys
On paper
On pens
On receipts
On napkins
On envelopes
And it leaves a residue
And I read it
And you read it
And it stains

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

The sky is mottled with pregnant clouds

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

The sky is mottled with pregnant clouds
Contractions of wind huff harder and harder
Trees protest throwing down leaves
And still I stay outside

A cricket plays a solo
A neighbor laughs
My hair blows over my eyes
And still I stay outside

The cup of tea has lost its steam
My skin tightens into untouched dunes
My fingers tighten while they tap
And still I stay outside

Bukowski’s liquor breath escapes his jowls
Love is a Dog from Hell flutters and howls
My little dog scurries from door to lap
And still I stay outside

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

Float, Volcano, Marathon

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Astronauts spin holding an orphan rope
All known life bouncing from their visors
Green and blue and white and brown

My fingers burn and quake at glowing letters
An eruption of black spews over white
Invisible specks from that deep black pool

Finger through tar race chariots of fire
One view, two views, three views, four
One like, two likes, then no more

The window checking fever of a lost love
Howling wolves, laughing hyenas, danger
Bricks are laid one by one by one by one

Not fame, not money, not glory, nor expertise
Anxious desire to transcribe thought
To write. Not to be read, but understood

Die, Mug, Silence

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

The waitress eyed his mug like a Black Friday shopper eyeing the father who just grabbed the last Tickle-Me-Elmo. His knuckles white from keeping a tight grip through the handle around the sphere of the terracotta cup. His eyes glancing at the waitress and back at the coffee, half full and still steaming in his hand. The waitresses grip on the coffee pot equally as tight, a white band appearing where her choke hold on the handle, pressed against her wedding band and drained the blood around that finger.

He watched as she delivered a plate of egg whites to an older man two tables away. Then she walked over to his table.

“How is everything?” her question a distraction to her real intention. A rope-a-dope as her coffee pot hand darted forward across the table toward his mug.

“Everything is great, thank you.” He said, taking a sip from his coffee and bringing closer to his being, away from the hovering mother ship of coffee.

“Great, I’ll be back to check on you.” She wavered eyeing the mug, her hand beginning to shake from the extension of the nearly full pot in her hand. The moment passed and she retreated, moving on to the next table, where their mugs were exposed, and she filled to the brim each one with steaming coffee.

His mind was quiet. Eating alone, he’d become accustomed to the silence in his immediate vicinity. The conversations and cacophony of forks, knives and cups clattering spilled over into his space, but that was to be expected.

The waitress stopped at the coffee maker and began reloading her pot. She glanced back at his table; the mug still locked in his hand. She nearly spilled the coffee but there was more than enough in the chamber to cock back and fire more coffee into his cup, no matter how full it may have been.

She walked straight back to his table. “Refill?” The pot hovering inches from his mug-holding hand.

“No thank you,” he replied.

“Are you sure?” She insisted, pushing the pot closer to him until they nearly made a toast.

“Yes, I’m quite satisfied with the amount I have, one cup is enough.”

“Well, refills are free, sir, don’t be shy.” She was on the attack. He still stayed on the polite defense.

“That’s a great policy but I think I’ll have had my fill with just this one cup, thank you.”

“Okay, I’ll be back to make sure.” She fired back. This shot wiped out his front line and civility became the casualty.

“Ma’am, no need to come back. I only want one cup of coffee.” The smile on his face turned a few degrees to a thin line.

“Okay, we’ll I’ll be back in a few minutes to make sure. People change their minds.” She threatened to leave but her smile faded, and she stayed, her arm shaking from holding the full pot out in front of her.

“Do not come back. I have finished my meal and once I finish this very cup of coffee, this single cup of coffee, I will pay my bill and leave. Should you continue insisting, I will be forced to leave only a 10% gratuity.”

“Sir, are you not happy with our service?” Her brow furrowed and the line became a frown. His brow furrowed and the thin line became a frown.

“Your service is excellent, perhaps a bit too much. It could be said that there is too much service. And if there should be too much of something, it is still inadequate.”

“I will refill that mug.” She pushed the pot against his mug, threatening to tilt its spout into his mug.

“You will not.” He pulled the mug away.

“I will provide this service as per our policy.”

“Policy be damned, I would rather die than accept your refill.”

Sleep, Store, Offense

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Lemuel rested his eyes, just for a moment. The last few days had forced him to be alert, but the moment he let down his guard, he was out. His eyes fluttered rapidly behind his eyelids as his mind processed all its eyes had taken in.

Lemuel watched skeletons running around on a beach with black pebbles. Their bones clacking on the rock as they swiveled their heads around, which, their heads were cameras. Cameras with long lenses that whirred when they zoomed and had cables attached that ran all the way to somewhere Lemuel couldn’t see. The camera head skeletons crowded around Lemuel, pointing their lenses at his lemon stuffed mouth.

The setting and characters shifted. The clacking bones and whirring lenses morphed into the strange noises coming from all the people in the marketplace. All the strange noises from the other creatures in cages also stirred into the blurry soup being made in Lemuel’s mind. He stood in front of a long table, octopi crawling all over each other and up the pillars holding up the tent. A man came out making guttural noises from his mouth and maybe even nose before taking out a giant clever and hacking at the squirming maw of tentacles and beaks on the table. Heads, beaks and tentacles still suctioning flew everywhere.

One landed on Lemuel’s face and he tore it off with a hiss and pop. Lemuel stared horrified at the massacre of the sacred creatures he was taught to hold in reverence. The providers of the ink that allowed the lemonmouth to speak, to stand out amongst themselves and the rest of the world. The ink that allowed them to tell their stories, both ancient and new.

Lemuel began to cry, his tears hot and angry. He began to shake violently. His arms and legs stretching and growing wider all at once. Tiny suction cups dotted his growing arms and he grabbed at anyone with his new tentacles, anyone in the marketplace, but their quick pace and constant noise prevented them from noticing anything was going on. Every person Lemuel grabbed continued making their noises and looking around as if they had forgotten something.

Then Lemuel woke up. Someone was shaking him. He looked up into the eyes of a woman, she smiled but there was no lemon in her mouth and also not a single tooth. She spread her arms wide in the greeting he understood. On her bare chest, between a shirt, he could see the lines of the lemonmouth, from a different ship most likely, and quite old judging by its faded color.

The lines on her chest told a story of motherhood, of disgrace, of shame. There was also a new line, one Lemuel hadn’t initially noticed. It was a skeleton hand, it’s pointer finger and pinky sticking straight up while the thumb and other two fingers were pressed into the palm, almost like a head with horns. Lemuel didn’t recognize that symbol, but in looking up at her face and keeping the new lines in his mind, he noticed a strength.

She motioned for him to follow and he did, this being the only other lemonmouth, or closest thing to one, he had found in a few days.

Confusion, Mosque, Slow

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Nothing made sense at the edge of the blue. On land there didn’t seem to be any order, to anything. Nothing was categorized and everyone moved rapidly, never seeming to take a break. Those weren’t even the strangest things. There was nothing in their mouths and they all seemed to be constantly making noises through them.

Lemuel had heard crying or retching or coughing but never the cacophony of sounds he was hearing now. None of it made sense. His eyes darted everywhere for some daubing, some symbols on these strange people to learn something about them.

Opening his arms at everyone coming toward him didn’t seem to be effective, if anything, they walked faster and made an obvious turn to avoid him. There was so much stimulation, Lemuel couldn’t think. He looked for a place that might be quiet so he could gather his thoughts and process what he might do. It wasn’t even that long ago that he had suddenly regained consciousness on shore. He still hadn’t gotten over the shipwreck, seeing all the ropes, sails, wood, and various supplies scattered in the mouth of the bay. All those lemons, bobbing up and down, rolling back and forth with each wave stretching onto the edge of the blue.

Looking up, Lemuel spotted a tall building with round towers poking up above the other tall buildings. Moving toward it, he pushed through people carrying strange objects he’d never seen. Moving creatures in cages, baskets of bright red, round objects, shiny things twisted in dangerous shapes. He had to keep looking up at the towers because at his level, there was only seeing just past the next person.

Finally, he looked up and then down to see the entrance of the building he sought. A giant archway patterned with tiles on each side marked the mouth of what he hoped would be a quiet or at least a quieter place.

Walking slowly towards the entrance, Lemuel noticed shoes just outside the large wooden doors. He took off his sandals and peeked into the door that was slightly ajar. Two men emerged, not noticing him. They carried rolled up rugs and stopped to put on their shoes. Lemuel slipped past and stopped, letting his eyes adjust to the darkness.

As his eyes took in the little light available, they began bouncing off information for Lemuel to see. More giant arches marked a long, vacuous hallway but they were not plain. Every wall, pillar, arch and windowsill was covered with carvings. Images of birds, geometric shapes, slivered moons, suns and stars.

Lemuel looked at his own bare chest, seeing the tattoos that made up who he was. Perhaps they spoke his language. He moved forward through archways, looking up at gigantic hanging objects holding, what looked like, thousands of candles. Ahead of him, he saw more men. They faced down on rugs just fit for them and rocked back and forth from kneeling to touching their heads to the rug. They were also making strange noises from their mouths, but these were not the chaotic sounds from outside, these seemed to sooth him. Lemuel knelt down, mimicking what he saw and began to think. The storm, his grandfather losing his grip on the rigging and disappearing over the side of the ship, screaming, blackness, the beach. Lemuel had found a quiet place but his thoughts were booming.

Outlook, Violation, Thumb

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Lemuel sat at the bow of the ship staring at the thin line that his elders had told him was land. Born on the boat, he’d never been to land, but he was told it was like the deck of a ship that never rocked and often stretched as far as the eye could see. Lemuel was also told that there was no need to ever go there. The ship and the sea had everything they needed. Except for the lemons and a few other supplies.

To go and live on shore among all the evil that existed there was one of the main themes Lemuel was taught time and again. For the lemons and other necessities, special crew members called thumbs were designated and even then, they traveled ashore in groups of three; one with a blind fold, another with a gag in his mouth and the third with earplugs. Each specialized in a sense. The eyes (gag) surveyed and looked for the appropriate vendors. The ears (blindfold) listened to the side conversations of vendors to make sure they were not being taken advantage of. The mouth (earplugs) spoke for the fleet belonging to the Lemonmouths.

Lemuel looked down at his first tattoo, a small black lemon on his right wrist. Made from the ink of octopi and squid pulled up, boiled down and inked by the “daubers”. According to his grandfather, the Lemonmouth needed very little to communicate and in a picture a thousand conversations could be had. By looking at the other’s eyes and down to their tattoos, Lemuel had learned to communicate.

The lemon wedged in Lemuel’s mouth was still fresh, the rind had not yet broken down or been accidentally punctured by a tooth. He wiped away the steady stream of saliva with his water cloth, a strip of sail each Lemonmouth carried around for that purpose. His was brown and crusted by salt but that was normal.

In Lemuel’s world, the lemon was a sacred object. Geronimo Coolidge, their forefather, the lemon prevented scurvy, but it also kept out evil spirits, from entering the body or the world. A world, that for Lemuel, consisted of water and wood, yet he would stare at that thin line near the horizon and wonder what it was like, evil or not.

Mask, Impact, Discovery

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Perhaps loneliness can be written away. Getting lost in words, ideas, sentences, paragraphs, pages, chapters, books, tomes, libraries. To become friends with letters and a tool for writing. Making acquaintance with a blank page, filling it with the handshakes and small talk of stories, essays, and poems.

Forcing one’s being to come into contact with the page, to forget all else. Surrounding loneliness with all that comes with writing and wrapping it all tightly around like a hug. Consumed by repeating the feeling period after period. Obsessed with filling the page and losing the self. Building a safe covering, draping oneself with the muses of tragedy and comedy; Melpo and Thalia.

All the while time moves, slightly faster, than when your eyes are locked onto the clock, moving with each blinking light or ticking hand. Loneliness slowing time. Time amplified and compounded by loneliness. Sleep and death the enemies of loneliness but friends of time and its passing.

Perhaps loneliness can be written away. Erased or at least postponed by the transcription of thought into words. How many words to erase loneliness? How many candles to light up a dark cathedral? How long can they burn? How much time passes before loneliness like a wind, rushes back in, leaving only the smoke of memory?

Burrowing furiously to unearth some sort of truth, the face behind those smiling and laughing masks, to the spiky ball of pain, down to the fluffy ball of joy. Digging down the white, throwing up black letter after black letter until you’re at the bottom of a page, buried safely under a pile of words.

Insist, Nap, Meaning

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

The cowboys silhouette dipped left and right with the trotting of the horse. Dust swirled around and the tumbleweeds hopped and rolled across the trail. The horse would slow its pace until spurs dug into its side. A quick gallop and then back to a trot but the cowboy demanded they keep moving.

The journey had started just before the sun started peaking at them from behind. Now the sun was slipping behind the mountains in front of them.

They came across a stream and the cowboy stopped, taking the bridle in his hand and leading the horse to water. As the horse drank, so the cowboy dipped his cowhide waterskin for his own drink. After filling it, he cupped a hand into the water and drank.

Spotting a tree across the stream, they walked through the water and tried to rest. The cowboy leaned up against the tree and covered his face with his hat. The horse bended its knees and collapsed immediately into a snore. They would continue on during the night but from transition of light to darkness they would sleep.

Only the sounds of the snoring horse, wind flapping through the leaves and the stream could be heard. The cowboy kicked off his boots and rubbed his feet, keeping the hat over his face. The horse kicked out but kept snoring.

Crickets, invisible to eye but not to the ear, began to drown out the other sounds. The cowboy fell asleep and dreamed.

Of swirling dust, giant tumbleweeds, snorting horses, distant gunshots, crying children and a woman’s embrace. Riding a 20-foot horse, the cowboy approached a city the likes of which he’d never seen. Buildings like mountains, lights in the shape of words and tropical fruits. A thousand bells ringing and glasses clinking. Carts with giant wheels pulled by invisible horses.

The cowboy now rode on a horse smaller than the carts that passed him. He looked up all around to see walls of glass and light. No signs of tumbleweeds, cacti or even dust. A man wearing a bright orange cowboy vest that reflected light carried a giant satchel over his neck and around his waist. The man walked up to the cowboy, looking down at him and tapped two notes together before handing him one.

The cowboy held it in his hand “two for one drink special at the spicy cabana. Girls drink free.”

The horse snorted in his sleep, waking the cowboy who removed his hat and looked out over the plain. No glow in the distance, no sun only the moon, stars and the crickets. Scratching his head, the cowboy pulled on his boots. He stood up and looked all around. With two quick clicks of his tongue, the horse sat up and the cowboy bent down to pet its mane.

Wave, Paper, Flexible

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Hands reached for the little boat. Fingers tapping its paper corners and sides but the current whipped it down the gutter. The blue and red ink began to puff out in areas where the boat was pelted with rain and splashed with the small waves rising over sticks, stones and garbage clogging the drains.

Dropped into the makeshift river, this little boat was light and feathery. It’s creases tight and corners sharp. Now after rain, rapids and collisions with hands and debris, the little boat was becoming heavy. The taut micro-fibers ultimately making up the boats triangular shape were losing their rigidity.

The rain turned to hail, and the sky’s angry kidney stones pelted the little boat. Each ice pea dunking portions of the paper vessel into the water. The sail was nailed from the side and submerged before teetering back to its shape. The bow was hit, and the boat flipped over, and righted itself once again, continuing its unguided journey.

No matter the danger, the boat stayed the course and went with the flow of the stream. The only thing that changed it was the fibers loosening their grip on its former shape. With each dip in the water, every wave, every reaching hand, stick, stone, hail or rain drop, the little boat slowly changed.

By the time the rain stopped, and the sun jostled its way through the angry clouds to dry its tears, the little boat was no longer that. Instead, a crumpled piece of paper snagged on a branch and dried in the sun.

A day later, with no rain, snow or hail forecast, a man without a home wandered down the street. The paper shivered in the wind, catching the man’s eye. He bent to pick it up and looked at its blue lines, like a watercolor prison door. Pulling a black marker from the side of his beanie, he wrote.

He stuffed the paper into his pocket and made his way to the intersection downtown. A woman, stopped at a red light looked over to her left and saw a sign that said, “Hungry, anything helps.”

The little paper had changed and changed back again. Now it would change again.

Today

Today was a good day.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I blasted straight up through the clouds, punching that little grinning cherub on the 9th before rocketing past cloud 10, 11, 15, 37, 100.

I found another winning lotto ticket after losing the first in a drunken blur. Then, sober and aware, I found the first ticket, crumpled in a pocket.

I can see straight and think in any direction I choose. This morning I looked at the mirror, smiled, and realized I wasn’t staring at a stranger but looking at a friend.

I stepped out of my mind, out of my house and strangers walked up to me, asking about my shirt, my tattoos, my hat. The mask hid my smile but my crows feet must have been tap dancing around my shimmering disco ball eyes.

I have a full deck. I am kind, I am genuine, I am determined, I am empathetic, I love and want to be loved. I have bad cards too, but I’ve got a royal flush and I’m all in.

I am grateful, bowing to that mystical, cosmic energy. On my knees, not from defeat but in recognition and relief of victory.

She wore the band t-shirt I gave her before COVID cancelled the concert. I wore the band shirt she gave me the night before I wouldn’t see her for weeks after.

We met and I’m just glad I got to see her. I’m glad she got to see me. I’m glad I’m starting to see myself.

So now I look up at the stars before I go to bed and the terrors grip me, gasping in my sleep. I know I’ll wake up and have a beautiful day. And if I die before I wake, I’ll have lived a good day today.

Homophones

Exploring homophones.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Have the cents to make a fortune.
Have the sense to make a fortune.

Dwell under the air of your discontent.
Dwell under the heir of your discontent.

Explore the aisle to find your food.
Explore the isle to find your food.

Shave the hair.
Shave the hare.

Let it be.
Let it bee.

I am mail in a box.
I am male in a box.

Too much waste.
Too much waist.

It is dark in the morning.
It is dark in the mourning.

Enjoy the suite.
Enjoy the sweet.

Find your piece.
Find your peace.

I don’t know.
I don’t, no.