Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 3
Spring 2011

Three Sections From Trace

by Jack Marshall

“Hitler bought off Pius XIII’s Vatican

“Hitler bought off Pius XIII’s Vatican
with a tithe from German taxes
of one billion.
Each year the Pontiff sent
birthday greetings to the Fuhrer:
‘Warmest congratulations with fervent
prayers for you in the name
of the bishops and diocese in Germany 
sent on their altars to heaven.’”
The orchestra at Buchenwald, the French
woman singing Tosca; fiddlers playing 
for their lives by an open trench;
Robert Desnos reading good fortunes
from the palms of Jews
in line to the ovens.
Poetry had better see through the doors 
of boxcars, or else not play
on the tracks anymore.
No more songs
to the balcony; 
the balcony is closed. So long...
And to the new King of the Poetry Slam
I say, I’ll see your Poetry Slam,
and raise you Islam.
O how many lands I’ll never set
foot in! How many girls I’ll never lay
eyes on! OK then, if not
in the same bed,
then in the same 
Handsome young man eyes
two pretty young girls
on the street, passing by:
“You girls married?” “We’re not
even legal!” 
“You got
to be kidding! You gotta
be out there so someone come
on to ya!”
Election Year 2008: Obama
is your

—Appears under the title of “Tithe” in Contemporary World Literature (October 2010)



—(in memory, Morton Marcus)
Fog-shrouded February barely gone,
and with my first steps out,
a powerful scent-driven
air’s full blossoming springtide knocks me
squarely on my knee-caps,
nearly to my knees.
My friend has died; he appears
walking away in a sky
that had not existed before
he occupied it
and now
empty sky, no sun,
returning a sum,
debt most
unforgiven, called in,
totalled. In moments of crisis,
as the heart’s submerged need springs 
to the surface, new eyes
see such a prickly pair
we were! — yoked, 
bickering brothers.
Yet how unstinting your generosity
rivaled in richness 
your full-throated rhapsody!
If poetry is near able to say
things not heard in speech,
perhaps you’ll hear what I didn’t say — 
here, in out of the unbound 
stretch and reach and touch of
time in sound.
Mort, we should switch places.  Have 
you noticed how those who love life least 
often live 
longest? Something’s amiss. 
Such a circus! Applause these days 
would be white noise.
On the phone, you
could barely whisper
you were ready to go,
though you’d breathe easier
if the world’s cries gentled for the night;
you’d be elated, you laughed, near
healed, if drawn
out of midnight and daybreak’s light 
dawn’s pink palm opened.



Summer hayride-wagon’s
sundown on the way,
molten horizon’s
bonfire obscured
by cordite clouds,
funereal barbecue...
Pray? — No way is Eden
for experience shows you 
can get sick from a steady diet
of daily news
cooking 24/7,
profiteering off human
and animal pain; raping
the climate for long-
term reaping,
capital’s kit-n’-caboodle kaput, and we
thrown in
for free; we,
along with the litter
we leave
where we loiter.
The bottle of pills
will fall
and spill,
the medication
will finally do
you in. 
My friend, hakeem Sam Hamod, more
than a doctor —  
a  healer —,
knows pain 
is our Zen; 
concentrated heat-beam
through a lens under 
which wriggling down 
we smolder.
Yet just to kneel
and bow five times a day would 
make my nagging backache hell,
and here he’s telling me of his triple-bypass 
with more gusto (if that’s possible!)
in his voice
after coming out of it
than before going under.
A miracle, I admit.
He laughs, knowing I’m not a believer,
and goes on as if he believes
I were.
Seeing is believing,
so they say, but these days
looks to me like believing 
sees. He raises 
his eyes, expresses gratitude,
Hamdallah, for all of us,
and makes a case
whirling Sufis spin in dizzying orbits beyond 
all sundowns for nevertheless praise.


“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury