Poetry: Brandon Marlon

The Land Between 

Once the country of our defeat,
now a liminal ecotone, zone of our appreciation,
an abundant overlap blending
Canadian Shield with St. Lawrence Lowlands
to forge a biodiverse greenbelt of grassland birds,
oaken forests, cattle grazing in pastures,
a natural paradise of wild rice
soon processed or reseeded,
of granite barrens, glacial tills,
alvars, rivers, lakes, wetlands,
home of Muskoka and Kawarthas,
the Trent-Severn waterway, the Delano scar.

Puzzle over petroglyphs etched against stone
as the skink lizard scurries through niches
and shrikes glide overhead, keen to impale prey.

Imagine all those who came before you
and traversed this corridor of wilderness,
whispering to the ruby-throated hummingbird,
observing dark night skies,
partaking of a habitat's embarrassment of riches.

Miami Beach 

Considering all the eye-catching pastel and neon
of a haven where every building is uniquely named,
where every hour is happy, small wonder
you only realize several days later
that you've been treading all this time
along pink sidewalks cool as the breezy mornings
greeting risers eager for sand and surf,
for the pushback of salty Atlantic waves;
tread nimbly, stroller, else you're bound to startle
scurrying lizards or grazing chickens down below
while high above by rooftop pools loungers
sipping margaritas and mojitos tan
and speakers blast reggaeton like they mean it. 
We all don and doff per activities and weather,
usually paradisal, occasionally catastrophic,
luxuriating for a time always too fleeting,
prompting vows to return and explore
even more in sessions of sun still to come.

Las Vegas

If Times Square expanded into a city, a theme park 
hub luring wide-eyed comers from all corners 
eager to revel in amusements and excesses 
contrasting against a spare desert backdrop, 
if it were popularized by gangsters and performers
as Mammon's den, paean to hedonism, ode to overkill, 
in time infused with the urge to mimic attractions 
from elsewheres, establishing thereby a celebration 
of imitation, then indeed it would look much like this.

Like toddlers, fulgurating lights insist on 
our notice and attention, whelming then fatiguing
even the most spry among the flock.
Easy marks and high rollers alike, 
we linger in herds before geysering fountains, 
succored by accompanying soundtracks, 
inspired to similarly transcend bounds. 

Those wearied by debauchery's delights
self-respite by digressing to the rouge gorge 
awaiting just west, patient and demure, where 
iron-pigmented stones compel meanderers away 
from the artifice of signage and avarice of slots, 
from acrobatics and pyrotechnics astonishing 
sore eyes yet falling short of imbuing an akin 
sense of serenity amid grandeur.


Braving prevailing winds, at times gale strength,
seekers adieu the routine of feathering one's nest,
and with a brisk volte-face venture afar
into wilderness as wayfarers, each humble as a pebble,
risking allegations of vagabondage for insights
fresh as rainforest.

Paralleling the river ushers them toward rugged piles
high as the neck will tilt, the acme misty and ice-clad;
air thins as they ascend sinews of stone
and summit the tor in lockstep with moonrise,
apogee and perigee coinciding.

For a transient instant, quietude
endued with a sensed presence; 
starlit, the sage agrees to greet them
and barter solitude for company,
unanticipated yet not unwelcome.

In reply to clamant queries, a still voice
only ever heard by those listening
imparts acumen for the ages, gleaned by discernment,
a message intoned in nature's undying dialect
about sediment made of silt, moraines made of till
in turn composed of clay, sand, gravel, rock,
each reflected in human nature with counterparts
similarly leaving vestiges in their wake,
striations of experience etching the surface
of character and mindset, sundrily manifested
as schist or gneiss or karst or, if life has been akin
more to lahar, tuff—the latter's nomenclature
understated though apropos.
They transcend, the sage assures, the mere reunion
of disaggregated fragments, the sum of which
never tallies the whole any more than
raveling the universe could account for
the cosmic instinct; absent meaning and purpose,
the sage implies as dawn impends, can we be
otherwise than wizened outcrops and crags
weathered by elements across the wasteland of time?


Treating others as you initially intend and prefer,
not according to their behavior towards you, and
distinguishing the person from the person's behavior
are sibling challenges interacting humans face,
trials at times excruciating, impossible, beyond even
the saintliest and most angelic amongst us.

When is the high road too costly due to its toll?
At what point do actants become identical
with their chronic conduct?

Anger ever endeavors to devour
and so often succeeds, sapping our best selves,
warping our poise, caging our grace.

We are the guardians of our own quiddities;
none else preserves the respectable self-image
each of us cherishes and aims to reify time
and again lest we mar the mirror's reflection
with blemishes unbecoming.

And yet, when goodwill goes unreciprocated
or we tire of the same harms inflicted
by the same unrepentant perpetrators,
how shall we marshal and deploy - even while
teetering on the fulcrum of the moment -
our immanent equanimity, refinement, self-possession,
or a ladybug's admirable imperturbability,
and thereby transcend baser instincts
anchoring us to the seabed's depths?

Such struggles are unmonopolized; much remains
to be gleaned from sages and elders, dignity's paragons
whose exemplum models a mechanism for coping,
a method for discernment, promising the hope
of edification, relief for those conscientious.

Brandon Marlon is a writer from Ottawa, Canada. He received his B.A. in Drama & English from the University of Toronto and his M.A. in English from the University of Victoria. His poetry was awarded the Harry Hoyt Lacey Prize in Poetry (Fall 2015), and his writing has been published in 275+ publications in 30 countries.  www.brandonmarlon.com

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