Marianne Szlyk (Western Voices 2020)

Exclusive: Western Voices, 2020: Edited by Scott Thomas Outlar
Bio: Marianne Szlyk's poems have appeared in of/with, bird's thumb, Cactifur, Mad Swirl, Setu, Solidago, Ramingo's Porch, Bourgeon, Bradlaugh's Finger, the Loch Raven Review, Epiphanies and Late Realizations of Love, and Resurrection of a Sunflower, an anthology of work responding to Vincent Van Gogh's art. Her full-length book, On the Other Side of the Window, is now available from Pski's Porch and Amazon. Later this year she intends to revive her blog-zine The Song Is... as a summer-only publication:

Music of the Aztecs
            After Los Lobos

Phone wires score my northern
sky for starburst trumpet. 
I can’t play that tune. 

Bobby Womack sings “Rain/
Across One Hundred and
Tenth Street,” not this place
with stubs of streets named for
trees we don’t talk to now,
as if we ever did. 

The band can’t talk with trees
either, for there are none
in East LA. These wolves
cross faded ground beneath
clouds about to rain, clouds
about to drift away.

Guitars grind like a ghost’s
chainsaw, like east winds full
of dust.  Drums are footsteps
across hard ground: asphalt,
concrete, dirt, or stone.

On the Astral Plain 

We spend night facing south,
looking over water. 
Contorted on soft wool,
we ignore the loud land
behind us.

Lights on rusty barges
become stars dipping down
onto cold, black ocean
that we pretend is womb.
Waves shush our few thoughts,
calm our cramped limbs.

At dawn, we stagger out
as if we’d been drinking,
laughing, dancing all night.
We step in the thin edge
of tide that pokes beyond
the beach.  Everyone

I meet my friend crossing
over from the dry side
of the street.  Masked, she
came to bring me back north
on the contagion

            There, holding our breath,
standing on the sixth floor,
we will not see the ocean,
and I’m still the girl with
the brown aura, laughing
inside at someone’s tales
from the astral plain.

Murals on Meserole Street
Clouds shaped like flying pigs
circle the metal sky.
Phone wires fence them in,
keep them from tumbling
into the asphalt stream.

Dogs, eagles, gators, cats
coexist at the zoo
on the concrete island.
Teeth gleam white like
thick ice in an old freezer;
they do not sting
or burn or bite.

Children perch on a stoop
to watch white tourists
snap photos of their street,
the razor wire on roofs,
the murals that replace trees,
playgrounds, and even weeds.


  1. Murals that replace trees,even weeds. Not certain if it is good that murals are what we see instead of trees. Unless it is a very beautiful mural. Ogden nash remarked the billboards are there instead of trees. Well, they can play t the trees afresh e hancing the mural.
    Nice poems.thankyou

  2. Thanks, Tamara. The murals in Bushwick were very cool, but I was taken aback by the lack of trees and even weeds on Meserole Street. I hope that you can take that street art tour. It's a bit of walking, but it's well worth it, especially if it's a cooler day than I chose.


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