Retired after nearly 20 years as a pastor and another 20 years as director of Dakota Resource Council, a community organizing enterprise in North Dakota. Mark has also traveled extensively in Latin America. About 50 of his poems were published in various literary magazines from 1975 to 1995. Since last year, Mark began publishing poems written over the past decade. Off the Coast recently published “Farm Eggs,” and ten other poems have been accepted for publication by Badlands Literary Journal, Canary, Wilderness House Literary Review and a chapbook entitled Fracture: Essays, Poems and Stories on Fracking in America. Additional poems have appeared in Limestone, Raven Chronicles, El Portal, Verse-Virtual, Right Hand Pointing, Matter, and Shark Reef.
Pizza in Oaxaca
I ate all seven types of mole,
including the one at the roofless restaurant,
green with avocado, poblanos and serranos,
the moon shining on my plate.
I took breakfast each day at the hotel,
third floor, open air, full sun,
eggs unacquainted with refrigerators,
hand-rolled flour tortillas, while
across the street trucks delivered water,
children called out in urgent voices,
the jacarandas slowly swayed their purple limbs
like merengue partners beckoning.
The hostess stopped with a pitcher
of fresh-squeezed orange juice.
Would you like more?
but it didn’t matter.
The blue book in my pocket determined
I belonged in the land of salt and mayonnaise,
and coffee that was never hot or dark enough.
A piece of paper said tomorrow I would go home.
At the zocalo that night, young couples
crept around the wedding cake fountain
in circles of promises and lust,
grandparents fed children chocolate.
I couldn’t decide for hours what to eat,
then awkwardly pulled up a chair
at the outdoor pizzeria.
After two pieces I vowed
never to order mole in Italy,
asked for a take-out box and headed off,
looking for hungry children, not hard to find.
A Tour of the Ruins
A chiseled viper creeps along the base
of the torture chamber at Chavin de Huantar
the frozen moment before the kill.
There is no escape.
The carvings at Sechin—
truncated effigies, intestines, hands,
eyeballs, elbows and heads—
line the entrance like posters
advertising coming attractions.
At Machu Picchu and its crazy quilt
of rock, all traces of nature smoothed away,
the local guide removes his Mastercard
to show it cannot penetrate the seam
between one trapezoidal block and the next.
Reclining against the comfortable stones
at the hot baths of the land of engineering
in the town the Spanish named Cajamarca,
I wondered if Atahualpa laughed at Pizarro,
his snorting, head-rolling draft animals
and his inconsequential book of scribbling,
easily torn, crumpled and burned like straw.
What harm could they pose?
Close by a Coca-Cola sign and portrait
of the holy blessed virgin, heart exposed,
stand the ruins of Yungay where twenty thousand died,
when a glacier broad as eight football fields
descended faster than an Indy racer,
interring the church’s nave, leaving only the steeples.
A widower stands there weeping for his wife and children
thirty years dead beneath his feet.
Only those who ran up to the graveyard survived.
At the final stop, the café and gift shop,
surrounded by knockoff Inca knick knacks
and bottles of pisco covered in llama hide,
the guide urges upon me a sample candy,
made of maca root and guaranteed
to help with my sex drive and memory.
No, no thanks, I said.
I have so many things to forget.