Four Poems

Mark Hammerschick

Photo Credit: Srikanth Jandhyala/Flickr (CC-by)

In Arizona Distance Long by Wide

Moon rocks beckon
in an Arizona distance
deep with desert
long by width wide with height.


Lizards leap in tangled underbrush
bright greens, yellow, crimson
flowers thorny
spikes, thistle, cutting.

Silence, complete, suffocating
dances alone as
ghosts of Navajo
hunt death’s valley.

Women weep
in caverns dark
while waters flow upward
into time’s steep ascent.

They chase shadows
of forgotten ancestors
who once roamed
these lands wide below trenches

of misery and pain,
not knowing the knowledge
of death’s refrain.
And so they weep…


Out of the Boardroom (Boredroom)

Looking upward through a skylight
at clouds slowly moving north
destination unknown on a summer day
late in a July afternoon.
Shadows from a whiteboard in a conference room
fingers of shadow for each phase
of past jobs lived lifelessly
among targets and profits meetings and marketing
how those charts no longer matter
and probably never did.
Goals and objectives, appraisals and reviews forgotten
when a life is lived with trousers rolled
and shirts untucked, ties a distant demise.


Corner Office

It is dark.
A boy shovels snow.
With each neat pile
he shovels his future
in the moonlight of this present past.

Saturday is weeding day.
First Mrs. Wilson’s garden
dodging the pesky schnauzers
then Cora Anderson’s place
under the cool Catalpa canopies.

On some nights he helps his mom
at the Lions Bar and Grill
as the general kitchen helper,
scraping, cleaning, boiling and frying
chickens for the Friday night regulars.

After fifth grade classes at St. Andrews
he scurries home to outrun
the Gaylords gang hanging out
under the El on Roscoe Street.
They don’t like the Catholic boys.

It is night.
In a small room
enclosed with books
he counts his money.
Careful, methodical piles
take shape, penny mountains,
quarter valleys and nickel canyons.

Seasons pass, winds move.
The boy scrapes pots and pans,
scrubs floors, shines silverware
at Martha Washington Hospital
as the dietary aide after high school classes.
On Sundays he’s the cook’s assistant
learning the mystery of hospital cuisine.

He is not one to complain.
He has a plan, he has a vision.
Work is work, an end to a means of approach.
Forever winning, near the goal…

Years pass, seasons come and go
like the women in that room
speaking of Michelangelo.
The boy now a man sits
enclosed in an Italian leather chair
high in the corner office
of a glass and steel tower.

So many Saturdays
and so many Sundays
early and late
in the small hours
and in the large hours
in the wide valley of youth
and now in the narrow crevice of age.

The sign on the door says
Executive Vice President.

No one knows how
the shovels of youth
can form the mountains of age,
how pulling weeds
and frying chickens
and scrubbing floors
can lead to the corner office.

The boy-man knows this
and is proud.
A life lived long,
lean, focused and charted
like some square rigger on the high seas.

So, they give him the gold watch
inscriptions and pats on the back.
What a run they say, you deserve it
they chatter, drinks raised, toasts made.

The man now sits in this yard
sipping a dry Martini
yearning to start shoveling again,
pulling weeds and frying chickens…


Mai Tais on the Bay

It started in the dirt
weeding the rose bush beds
for five dollars per hour
big cash for those days
lived on the Bernard
in a fractured yard
of splintered dreams
not yet imagined

it grows
it moves
it learns
it grooves

then onward and upwards
to the grill
at the minimum wage
but heated to the maximum
macs large in an oiled purgatory
of fries laced with Lazarus stench
oozed into blue aprons
impaled on tender breasts
not yet pierced
by the pernicious propensity
of ambition

it roils and rolls
into bewildered adolescence
based on black beauties
Hawaiian expansion
dazed and confused
broken on the bottle
shaved inner thighs beckon
and then
the descent
into Shantih
beyond the brutality of breath
the longing of Tantalus
so near so close
yet so far from
the warm cloak of Pompeii
where the womb one
floated into free fall

mountains shift
rivers do what they do
it gathers itself
as it descends into steel towers
doing what needs to be done
moving up
into quantum cubes
infected with fantasy
dreams not only deferred
but only dried raisins
on that road to
Selma, Bataan, Auschwitz

In the inner
you fight to live
you pray to flee
but memory
can make you free

it grows old
moldy, moody, mottled
and then the day
when it leaves the corner office
out of the blue and into the black
certainty of Groundhog Day
another severed brain
lost in the labyrinth
of what could have been
of what was wasted
which is now
the here and now
of trousers rolled
belts slung high
and flesh fleeing itself
as it ascends
into Mai Tais on the Bay


Mark’s poetry will be appearing in The Metaworker and Breadcrumbs Magazine. He writes fiction and poetry and has been published sporadically. He holds a BA in English from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and a BS and MBA. He is a lifelong resident of the Chicago area and currently lives on the north shore, most of his professional career has been focused on digital strategy and online consulting as a digital architect and transformation strategist. Email: hawthorn2414[at]

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