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featured poets & artists


mark hartenbach

mark hartenbach is a poet, writer, musician, publisher & otherworldly soul explorer based in east liverpool, ohio. you can check out his chapbook appalachian koans, among other publications, by writing to non compos mentis press, 240 thompson ave., east liverpool, ohio 43920. markhart@webtv.net


saint ishmael has risen from the ashes of mythology & cultural
cutting edge caught in god's headlights
& dusk is the time for improvisation where every move is prayer
three hundred sixty degrees of blooming & dying
blooming & dying free from the annoying hum of unchecked
rationale & the flicker
of awkward familiarity

no longer consumed
with finding where x marks the spot no longer gnawing on wooden
nickels & pathological lies
no longer cursed with the burden of prophecy no longer crippled by
an ever present ache to be saturated
in the moment

he's tempting fate with a new spin on old hosannas, crawling out
from beneath his words getting to the green of the poem translating
perfect absurdities from ink blot absolutes chipping away
at supposedly concrete storylines giving noble names
to the eternally perplexed

he's polishing the words that work & hanging them from the world's
horns skinning back symbolic
where abstraction meets sanctification knocking crowns off
the heads of nostalgia & complacency putting funny hats
on deadpan idols defiling gilded streets with incontinent celebration
transforming tight rows of tombstones into joyous elbow room
taking a sledgehammer to hierarchical brickhouse
he's cracking open possibility with reveletory stomp instead of
mucking about in dialectic death tripping bursting at the seams &
shadows genuine to exhaustion but razor sharp
& eternally popping
parting the margin with slighted hand & overturning
the unnatural order of things

saint ishmael has been resurrected
into flesh, bone & complete anonymity although he was offered
countless shiny things laid out like quick explanations
while they pretended to look the other way he declined, he
that because words slide out effortlessly doesn't insure they'll find
their way into a parable, a poem
or even a warning label
he knows words can't take on new meaning until the old are

he scrambled down from the pulpit
before anyone could demand his papers a blood test or his undying
gratitude he chose the burning bush instead of the eye of the
pyramid the crow who fed the prophet instead of the narcissistic,
preening peacock he took a dark, gravel road in a lowdown, minor key
instead of burnished avenues rising in histrionic fervor

although hyperspirituality can lead to madness or the long way
there's no denying there's a certain comfort in the margins
not much is expected of you there's seemingly little to lose but
there's also an unforeseen amount of pain
that creeps into every thought soaks into hone, muscle & nerve
a pain that dogs you to the end of your days
until you let it all ride on grace not because the fields appear to go
on forever or because the trees seem ripe for hanging not because
the river seems to speak your language or because the dirt seems to offer
quick solutions but because the farther away we get the faster the words come
but the less we seem to need them

what would happen if we could no longer see our hands
what would it feel like to win, to crow immaculate & uncorrupted

would the mountain top
feel like a drop in the hat would we continue to be spooked by the
sound of philistine bone chimes would we see the futility
in incessant scratching of figures of speech on the walls of the

would we be able to hitch a single vision all the way
beyond architecture of design to incomprehensible roundness
would we be able to brush past american samarai duty
to unreasonable anarchy
claw our way out of statutory myth shed clinging reputation,
relentless expectation & unrequited terms of approval
for wider, wilder wings of immediacy

banging against the ceiling masterpiece it may be makes not a
but a bruised, broken misanthropic mess who ends up hawking
orchids, religious relics & everchanging, self serving manifestos that
praise the mediocrity
of places, names & dates
true freedom comes with abandoning self for a higher anonymity
understanding is where you are not necessarily where you want or even need to be

love is revolutionary not artistic license to act out half-baked
theories or romantic notions
with the goddess of calculated risk

we need miracles not martyrs poetry not apologies resurrection not



saint ishmael has vowed to get naked with blessings to strip down
to sparrow sacred trust
to claw the necessary arithmatic into a matchstick before lighting up
to divine the future by counting footsteps & acknowledging everyday
as touchstones of his faith to head off certainties that conspire to
saturate even the most intuitive storyline
that insist on putting preordained finishing touch on every
exclamation point
before he can ceremoniously plant his bones & successfully imitate
the gestures of a dead man

to walk sensitive ground
without stirring up machiavellian instincts to see the difference
between never hefore & what should have been
between fact, fiction & poetic license to master the art of innocence
while picking at a rotting carcass like it's manna from heaven sweet
soul candy
until his purity of intention hushes all judgement
& threat of commercial potential

to not be concerned
with when the world will rise up & meet him halfway, realizing there
is no shame in taking a dive when it doesn't
to see that blood is thicker than water hut not thick as mud
so embrace clouded divinity & the spirituality of anonymity to shrug
off judgements
that the world will inevitably deal out accept the consequences of
freedom the implications of rolling away the proverbial cliche

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