TODAY I LEARNED THE WORD ‘PERMAFROST’ by Marc Alexander Valle

We do things to save our lives. 

Not real life. 

But ourselves. 

That little fire. 

The one you can see in a child’s smile and curiosity, picking up a rock and looking for a bug and wondering if every rock hides a bug and committing to the lifting of every rock until they find out for sure whether there is a bug under every rock or not.

That fire, that smile, that everything.

That fire started to die down in high school. 

Everything became a fog. 

Peers started dating and I didn’t have a clue, older brother started spending time with other friends, dad started yelling about my grades and how I was using my time, and the anxiety/depression started to take hold and take form. 

Everything I thought was real was crumbling. 

So I wrote. 

And all of it was bad. At first, it was bad writing for bad screenplays. Then bad poems and bad essays and bad plays and bad stories, all of them taking me now where.  

But I saved my life. Not my real life. But my life.

Over and over again I did it. Like a lighthouse fueled by imagination. I did it over and over again. That fire. That smile. Over and over again. Each strike of the pen, more exciting than a first date and more satisfying than hitting back the school yard bully. Again and again. And one day I stopped writing nothing but crap, and one day I found my voice. And the real voice of anyone of us is the voice of the Universe, using us to find its place in this world. 

Sometimes I get lonely and think most people just let that blaze die and this is how the world works. The schools and the streets and the bars and the workplace flowed with enough booze, gossip, dental benefits and Sunday football to make people forget they ever had an inferno inside. 

But the fire is warm and the fire is burning white birch and the fire is everything and outside the fire are the woods and the woods are the world and the eyes of the wolves can be seen hiding from the fire and the people of the world can be heard screaming and laughing out in the woodland darkness.  

The burning wood collapses and draws my attention back to the blaze, and I forget about the deep tundra outside the circle of light. I look into the coals at the bottom of the pit and know that I am warm. For now. And it’s everything to be warm. For now.

by Marc Alexander Valle

The Olive Tree by Marc Alexander Valle

This piece was first published in NortheastPoetry Review 2020

The Olive Tree

I had a roommate in college that couldn’t understand it. His name was Frank and he’d walk in the room and find me sitting in bed, staring at the ceiling and the wall. He’d say, “How come you’re always just looking at the wall when I come in?” I wanted to tell him that I was actually staring at the corner between the ceiling and the wall, but I thought it wouldn’t matter. So I’d say nothing back.

I didn’t know what to say, and I couldn’t understand it myself back then. I would just lie there and think. In those years, I daydreamed a lot and I’d get very depressed, so it was probably a bit of both. But it really seemed to bother him on some level. It was the way he’d say it. Not with malice, but not jokingly either. Like he’d caught someone smelling their own underwear. In time, whenever I heard him approaching the door, I’d sit up and find something to do in order to look occupied.

Living with others forces us to be more self-conscious in a very uncomfortable way. Even if ‘living’ means living on Earth with co-workers and classmates and family and friends. We still have to walk on eggshells and look into what we think are other people’s mirrors. Even if it’s for a second. What a horrible encounter.  

I sat my ass in a nice chair today for 40 minutes with a cup of tea and stared at the wall, half-thinking and half-not-thinking at all. I hadn’t done that in a very long time. And when I did get to thinking, I finally thought of Frank and what he would say if somehow he walked in the room. Then it all came to me like a wild horse over a razor edge sand dune. Frank just didn’t understand. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

I exhaled and picked up my tea. A few drops pooled at the bottom. I lifted the cup and tilted it toward my mouth. I could taste one sweet drop, and I swallowed it down.

Sometimes the one thing harder than life itself is picking the right place to just sit. 

With or without a ceiling or a wall.

The Santa Poem by Marc Alexander Valle

(Feedback is welcome)

The Santa Poem

My brother told me that Santa doesn’t exist. He showed me where all the gifts were stashed. G.I. Joes were everywhere. I felt a thrill throughout my body. Finding that Santa doesn’t exist is a double-edged sword. Your childhood is almost over, but now you have the advantage in gift begging. You can manipulate your parents into getting you what you want, and now you have someone to blame when you don’t get it. I’ll probably lie to my kids about Santa if I ever have any. When they find the gift stash, I’ll still lie to them. One Christmas, our dad made us leave a can of beer for Santa. He said that he wanted to see if Santa would drink it. The can was empty in the morning.

Human Anagram: A Poem by Marc Alexander Valle

Human Anagram

by Marc Alexander Valle

Nice, quiet, smart.

People have told me this all my life. I don’t know how I feel about those words anymore. I used to hate them, but I think I’m making peace with the fact that I’ll never really get to shake them off.

Nice, quiet, smart. A combination that makes me a rare bird in this world.

Why do we hate being different when we’re younger?

Why do we need so much of the three A’s–acceptance, approval, admiration?

Why does it take so long to get to yourself when you have to live with yourself every day anyway?

The rare bird has few avian friends, but people love him and put him on stamps.

Now I just tried to make a metaphor where birds represent people, but I couldn’t figure what actual people represent in that particular metaphor. I cringed at every possibility, thinking of what readers would think of my writing. So I guess I’m not that rare a bird that embraces its uniqueness yet. I don’t know if we ever really get there in mid-life.

But wouldn’t that be cool to be on a stamp?

Phenomenon ©2016 by Marc Alexander Valle

*A poem that I wrote 10 years ago. Also the image is mine, taken this year. 

Cowards are those with nothing beautiful to share

except the scent in the air

that represents something

running our life in the ocean

despite this great notion

that we are all one

sitting inside a small sun

that’s void of emotion,

exploding

inside of our hearts,

thinking how life really starts

without a beginning

and without our proud sinning

which makes us real hard

apart

from the fact that we gasp

as we run real, real fast

on our toes

and come to respect all our lows

in the past

fast

and curt when we learn

from this yearning inside of our mind

that we tend to remind

ourself in concern

firmly, but curtly like a flower

since we’ve only the power to blurt

all that works

like when we say in these hours,

“Cowards are those with nothing beautiful to share.”