The Comedown by Justin Marks

An excerpt

As a person I’m a fiction             A heart

of vomit             Huge amounts

of protein

Scared             Sacred

The difference is simple

transposition

Getting high in bathrooms

Applying for jobs

Everything I do

I do for approval

Continuous movement

A need beyond my ability

Whatever you say I am
is what I am

A child holding a lighter
A really cool weather event

I’ll be that

The trauma and the story
of the trauma I was told

Your touch
is intimidating

It feels too good

is what I think when my wife touches me

Massive gaps
in my development

Unidentified signals
from deep space

Under the skin
is more skin

Increasingly sensitive

Nary a wound salt
water can’t heal

“What a moving and unusual book The Comedown is! A long poem, or perhaps a memoir in verse, or a dramatic monologue, it is both playful and yet revealing, honest and philosophical, formally innovative and yet direct.”

—Ilya Kaminsky, author of Deaf Republic and Dancing in Odessa

“Justin Marks’ singular voice contends with the universality of existential dread without artifice or grandeur, but rather in the most intimate, nearly imperceptible moments that render us human—fallible, but full of grace.”

—Su Hwang, author of Bodega

When someone asks me a question
my immediate response is no

A delusion of grandeur
that’s mediocre

A nucleus burning
inside itself
Help that doesn’t help

To prevent prostate cancer
jerk off at least 3 times a week

A medical excuse
to mask
the loneliness

A future that’s always
about to end

#TGIF

In this, my 40th year
driving long distances should be
considered exercise

*

Looking at you, your faces, your eyes
closed is my relief

which is creepy

Me staring at strangers
the strangers not knowing

or maybe they do

I don’t deserve
such relief

*

I’m jealous
of other people’s
addictions

Their recovery

*

I look at my wife and think
I want you
but I’m scared

I want you I want you I want you

and so lie here un-
approachable, my face
in a book

*

Uptight in the moment
Regretful after

A step across
a dark threshold

Vanity and self-centeredness

Behind all this
vanity and self-centeredness is a need
for love

A simple human
need for love

I struggle
to express

Have spent my life failing
to satisfy

Failed to make myself

vulnerable enough
to satisfy

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In The Comedown, each page builds on the last and informs the next, creating a unique unfolding, an enveloping reading experience. Taken altogether, the 80-page poem is a courageous exploration of the author’s own experiences, anxieties, failings … and hopes and (yes) redemptions. Justin Marks provides a window into his mind that effectively shines out onto our own—it’s a truly remarkable and generous gesture that bears re-reading, and rewards it.