mark hartenbach


world without end
(a three-legged dog finds its place in the sun)

sometimes hiding out is necessary
to illumination
a place
where we can make something
from our distractions

& our shuffled perceptions
a near constant visionary state
that makes rational, linear thought
extremely difficult
if not impossible

that overwhelms
conventional behavior
& common sense
an imbalance that can't be
chemically rectified

some need an asylum
where they can pray
to the patron saint of the outsider
the marginal, the isolated
the illegitimate

some need a place
to wait out
those long silences
between bursts
of the ecstatic

others require a shelter
while they search for a way
to bridge the gap
between themselves
& the world


blood money

everyone has a name for it
divine retribution, karma, shit list
the inevitable

some are taught to look on high
others are trained
to keep head bowed

some lug around a white whale
everywhere they go
others carry the weight of the whole world

some feel weighed down
by something
they can't define

but there's no way
to measure one man's suffering
against another's

some seem to have a bullet
with their name on it
& no matter what path they take

its going
to find

some have a target
on their back
but its just for show

others seem to have no weakness
but still they're shot
straight through the halo


sacred ground zero

many can't understand the pull
it has on body & soul

they swear they could spit it out
until they've had a taste

who knows why some people
never fall into a habit

& others are cursed
with a need so deep

it can never be filled
but they'll die trying

whether its immortal or ancestral
i don't know

whether its temptation or blood pact
i can't answer

whether its necessary to twist
until its strong enough

to climb
out of the darkness

or we need something
to help us stay awake & alert

while we wait for the angel
isn't for anyone



illumination poem

it was an illuminating experience
that began as disorientation
& ended up speechless

there were no witnesses
& i have nothing
to show for it

no enlightening explanation
or even
an interesting story

many stroke victims
lose the ability to speak
but can sing complete songs

the limitations
of rational thought & action
can be frustrating

we want to throw
everything we've written
into the fire

& watch
as art rises
from the ashes


west of eden

why did i wait for the blood
to wash over me
instead of jumping right in

why did it take so long for me to see
that their definitions
were unacceptable

they raised questions
that could only be answered
with sleight of hand

my answers weren't bad
but they were never
good enough

to get me
through gilded doors
off blistered road

part idiot savant
part self loathing built to crash
part wounded animal on the run

always wondering
when the world
would catch up to me

& when it did
get close enough to touch
what would be my response

how would i mark the occasion
with their blood
or my own


on the diamond

in this world of situational ethics
& unstated but very real indifference
to the value of human lives
those with no connections
therefore no meaning
evil has more range
than ever before

a world where unity
is based on negatives
common fears & hatred

a world where the thread-bare
better be thick-skinned
to stand the bullwhip
of economic terrorism
or be sliced
into even smaller details

a world where those on the inside
are afraid
those on the outside
are dying to get in
will use any means necessary
to break down those walls

a world where justice is blind alright
its whacking away at the have-nots
with nightsticks
like their heads are prize-filled piñatas

a world where those that have
strut it for all its worth
but its the swagger of a little man
sure they'll taunt a dead horse
but they're afraid to beat it
until its been checked
for no pulse


     mark hartenbach is lost in appalachia where he makes daily offerings to saint ishmael, the patron saint of the misfortunate, misunderstood, misjudged, mislead & misbegotten. he is currently in love with a woman he's never seen, met or imagined.

mark hartenbach

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