Two Poems by Mark Christhilf


I’ve seen enough of my face.
What does it do for me
but set me apart?  Some days
I even wonder if it is my face,
it’s so unlike the one I started with.

They say the face makes each unique
and paste a photo on your license.
So I guess it is a fact
like an echo or a clock,
but to me it’s of little use.

I’ve had enough of my heart
with its restless yearning.  What
does it ever want but more?
What comes from its fear
but isolation?  And who

Can understand the way the heart hurries
to fill itself with things which vanish?
No wonder sorrow seems its lot,
it thinks only of its own happiness
and loves but what it knows.

I’ve also had enough of my life.
Where does it ever lead,
but back to work on myself—
a song full of static,
a muddled protest,
forever incomplete.


For Things Uncounted

Sometimes I am ashamed to be a human being
as when I see a herd of black Angus,
grazing in a field with neon-yellow markers
sprouting from their ears like flags.
By counting and coding things for profit
we came out of the mud and mire,
but what an unsightly mess we make
of the sweet, dumb unprotesting creatures.

And I wonder if, when we have counted
every cow and chicken, sheep and goat,
every piece of fruit and bar of soap,
when every fish in the ocean is coded
and every star in the universe charted,
will be closer to knowing what love requires?
Will we find it easier to sit still?
Or does dominion weaken?

Hard to say.  But there are days I’m thankful
for things uncounted:  the common sparrow,
the ubiquitous robin, the white-tail and crow.
And for the unnoticed—the jellyfish
and the daddy longlegs.  And there are things disdained
like brown bats and coyotes
to which I catch myself saying, live and prosper.
Does that make me perverse?

Mark Christhilf is the author of a book of poems, Gracious Is the Earth, and a book of criticism, W.S. Merwin the Mythmaker. His poems have appeared in Big Muddy, The Midwest Quarterly, Plainsongs, and The Atlanta Review