Issue No. 3, Winter 2012

Silent Reading
Rick Marlatt

A freshly sharpened pencil
is jabbed into an unsuspecting rib.
From the back row
something vulgar is uttered.

Wadded papers float
through the air like small clouds
above the mountains
of over-gelled heads.

And bad cologne collides
with multiple coatings of perfume
while an iPod aims its bass
right for my temples.

The only silence
is in the books themselves,
lying face down and closed
like cold and lonely vaults.

Below the fray of pushing,
shoving, and swearing,
Shakespeare is kicked across
the floor.

Judging by the position
of the bookmark,
Romeo has just discovered
something awful inside the tomb

and is about to make
the worst mistake of his life.
I realize, too,
that he has much in common

with the scholar three seats across
who snaps the bra strap
of the blonde in front of him
and squeals gleefully with laughter.

The beauty of youth
is you don’t know you’re young.
And the beauty of passion
is you’re young enough to feel it.

Before I know it
I’ve ascended my desk
and am standing high above
the groundlings in the yard.

“Here’s to my love!” I holler.
And I slowly raise
the Charlie Brown coffee mug
to my lips.

My sip is well drawn out.
“O true apothecary!
Thy drugs are quick.
Thus with a kiss I die.”

What follows is nothing
short of miraculous.
The iPod takes a break to reshuffle.
Their lives kick back to neutral.

Their mouths hang open.
Their faces go soft,
their eyes glossed white with wonder.

Rick Marlatt’s first book, How We Fall Apart, was the winner of the Seven Circle Press Poetry Award. Marlatt’s work has appeared widely in print and online publications including The Ratting Wall, New York Quarterly, and Rattle. Marlatt writes poetry reviews for Coldfront Magazine, and he teaches English in Nebraska, where he lives with his wife and their two sons.