J. W. Marshall
Winner of the 2007 FIELD Poetry Prize

Paper $15.95
(ISBN 978-0932440-32-7)

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"In J. W. Marshall's deceptively neighborly company we find ourselves, again and again, privileged to moments of essential vision, where the world has been pared to its peculiar fundamentals: 'Some things are easy to say / and others take / teeth.' Watchful, ruefully comic, alight with playful lyric precision and a plainspoken rhetorical elegance, Meaning a Cloud is not only a record of one body's recovery from injury but a rendering of the mind's
companion journey: pained, stubbornly amused, at last arriving at a state of visionary completion. It is a sorrowing, hopeful book, all of a crucial, embracing piece."
-- Susan Hutton

"John Marshall's poems are without sentimentality, without excess, and without guile. They envelop us in a plainspoken chaos, singing a quiet and terrifying lullaby that records the world as it becomes defamiliarized through loss. These are the poems of an avid and spooked watcher who pays radical attention to 'all that else' made strange through violent accident, institutional care, materialism, aging, love, and death. Marshall writes about the fragility of the body, the disordering of the mind. These traumas are described in language that rearranges the broken world, bypassing all cliché and pity. Throughout the collection, bitterness is held at bay by love in a speaker who resorts to a deranged syntax and music to re-invent, and re-call, 'the voice in the whirlwind.'"
-- Catherine Barnett

Sadness Therapy

On the second floor
the doors had plaques attached
to indicate the duties of their rooms.

Physical Therapy
Occupational Therapy
Chaplain and others.

Behind the Sadness Therapy door
a reproduction of Picasso’s Guernica
took up most all of one wall.

And there were shelves
muddled with paper and stubby pencils
gray clay in glass jars

fringe and beads for macrame
and wood and paints and nails and glue.
Sit at that table my counselor told me

and focus on the horse’s throat.
I want you to make me a model
of what you think it has to say.

I could not move.
That happens he said.
I’ll take you back to your room now.

The t.v. in my room that night
played a talk show with the horse as guest.
The audience let go some laughter

while the hacked animal
tried to reassemble
in the yellow chair beside a potted palm.

I guess, the host said,
you knew Picasso extremely well.
I turned the channel

to a sports show
where they ran a clip of the horse
crumpled over a ten-foot putt

certain to rim it
and face the derision.
I switched then to the public station

where a panel discussed Picasso’s Guernica.
The author of The Definitive History
of Bombing Civilians tisked and said

the death toll certainly doesn’t warrant
the size of the canvas.
He said well then imagine Hiroshima.

The critic of the use of pigment
said I figure this more
as something for plastics. I’d rather be

walking among the jagged relics
than having to stand so far away.
The last panelist was The One True God

who said I’m simply perplexed
by such sympathetic treatment of
what was after all a box of beasts

that fell apart. Don’t they all?
I turned the t.v. off.
There was no more need.

I’m ready to go home
I told the doctors on their morning rounds.
Have you made a model of the horse’s voice?

Listen to me
I said
knowing the answer.

--J. W. Marshall

Copyright c 2008 by J. W. Marshall. May not be reproduced without permission.

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