Untitled No. 12 by Marc Alexander Valle

I used to hate people, and I was certain that I was a lone soldier meant to swing a sword at the world through his art. Every stroke of the pen, an indictment on those who said or did something that hurt me. But all that happened was the sword landed on my foot every time, because none of those revenge pieces ever did anything but put a band-aid on it. 

I got tired of broken and bloody toes. But mostly I got tired of swinging the sword. 

I pay less and less attention to what I think it is that I think anymore. I’ve only ever gone back and forth, running slides through my head like those old projectors. Slide after slide, thought after thought, all year until a few years later, I’m a different person with different philosophies and different feelings towards different things. That’s just how it’s been. Definitely for me, maybe for most people. With every point, a counterpoint, waiting to make a fool of me and ready to tear down my views. 

I hear people say, “How can we be so arrogant to believe that we’re the only beings that exist in the universe?” Meanwhile we think our opinion is the only one that matters in that same universe, the same opinion that will eventually change.

But who knows. If everything is change, maybe I’ll go back to the old way. Or maybe I never left it at all. Maybe this statement is another form of what I claim to detest and I just am who I am and those unlying themes will never change. 

It just feels good to write and to express myself and to think without anyone telling me what to write and express and think. The freedom. The power. The choice. Where does it even come from, and what will it make of us? And would it make things better to even be able to answer those two questions?  

I can go on and on about these things, and there was a time when I would. At least in my own head. But not today. Maybe tomorrow. But definitely not today. There’s still some things that I’m certain of. And I’m certain of today. I’m definitely certain of today. 

The Yellow Cat by Marc Alexander Valle

THE YELLOW CAT

by Marc Alexander Valle

The yellow cat stopped by again. I saw it across the street, outside my open window, coming  from behind my neighbor’s single home. It sat down on the lawn and on its haunches and looked around the neighborhood. The wind blew hard, and I could see it squint its eyes. I thought maybe it was deep in thought. The other day, I saw the grey cat tackle a squirrel as I drove in the neighborhood. I cheered it on. But I’ve never seen the yellow cat do anything, but stop and pass, maybe once or twice a week. 

Something made me get up from my chair and walk to the window today. Maybe I wanted to see what it would do or where it would go. But there was something else. I wanted it to show something to me. Something about life and the purpose of existence. The expression, “Animals are more human than people crossed my mind.”  

I made a tisk sound with my tongue and roof of my mouth. For some reason people think animals like that, and I’m no different. It looked up and around. I tisked again, and it looked at me. And it stared. It stared for a few seconds, then it looked away and scanned its surroundings once again. It looked back at me. 

I’ve seen many cats in this neighborhood and after a few years I don’t see them anymore. They become replaced by a new generation, and I almost forget about the ones that have passed. I’ve labeled them by their quirks and demeanors, never giving them a name. The gray one that leaves as soon as it arrives. The tabby one that hangs around with the black and white one. The yellow one that keeps to itself. The cats will keep coming and I’ll keep watching and labeling.

It sat back up and walked towards the street. “Hey, kitty,” I said, and it kept walking. It kept walking until it got near the side of my house. “Psst,” I said. “Psst.” It looked at me, and then it kept walking. It kept walking until it went around the house and I could no longer see it.

I sat back down and stared at my screen and could do nothing but sit. I could feel neither discord or peace in my thoughts yet what I was experiencing wasn’t necessarily indifference.  I just sat. There’s branches of science and philosophy that study these things, but I can’t seem to remember their names. I’ve never been good with remembering names.

Trifecta: A Poem by Marc Alexander Valle

That budded dogwood tree doesn’t care about daylight savings time. Go ahead. Move the clock, and it won’t make any difference. It’s going to do what it wants, and it probably thinks your national attempt to save a buck is silly. Even if it did gain or lose an hour, it’s been here before you got here and it’ll be here when you’re gone. Kind of like a human to a mouse. Or a mouse to a dragonfly. 

In one month, those buds on those branches will be pink flowers, and I won’t be able to see the sky on the other side of it from where I’m sitting. 

The last ray of sunset hits the dogwood. I watch it slip away. It’s so gradual that I can’t tell at all. But it’s happening. I know it. I’ve watched it happen before. And it’s going to happen again.

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.