Mark J. Mitchell

In Issue 9 on January 1, 2012 at 11:00 am

Samsara Sestina

Is the ordinary still there?
The ordinary is still there too.

–Treatise on Sudden Enlightenment

The common, easiest mistake
Is to think all of this is real—
Of course it’s solid. Rocks are hard,
Rain will soak you, the dance
Of stars can wear you out
With beauty. But that’s not the same thing.

Look: Say something
Catches your eye—a drop a rock—you take
It within, learn it and let it out.
So then, which is real—
The bright light that dances
In your eyes, or the stone, hard,

Round, washed by time? It’s hard
To sort the seer from the seen. A thing
Is a collection of energies, a dance
Of molecules that form, reform, take
Shape in space or time, in the real
Field of action. But can time come out

To play? Is there space without
Something closing in, some hard
Boundary? How does it become real?
Where is the rock when it’s no thing?
Is your tripping on it a mistake
Or another step in the dance?

Because it’s still a dance
You know. Time and matter weave in and out
Of each other. They leave, they take
Whatever they want. Their music is hard
To learn, to hear, like something
You sang before you could talk—a nursery reel

Or rhyme that’s no less real
Because it manages to dance
Away from your mind. It’s something
That can’t stay within, but isn’t without
Essence just because it’s not hard
To your touch. Still, it’s a simple enough mistake

To try and step outside this wild, unreal
Game of gods, the hard and terrible dance
Of shiny sad things that you may touch but never take.


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, and Line Drives. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the film maker Joan Juster. Currently he’s seeking gainful employment since poets are born and not paid.


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