Sunday, September 1, 2013

QUITMAN MARSHALL: You Were Born One Time – Three Poems & Bio

Quitman Marshall
You Were Born One Time
Ninety-Six Press, Furman University (Greenville, S.C.)
70 pages

WINNER of the 
2013 South Carolina Poetry Archives Book Prize 
(SCPA prize)

About Quitman Marshall

Born and raised in Columbia, SC, Quitman Marshall lived in Barcelona, Spain, then D.C., Amherst, and New York City, before returning to his home state in 1990. In Washington, where he received his M.A. in literature at American University, he studied with Henry Taylor, Howard Nemerov, and Doris Grumbach, in Amherst with James Tate, and in New York with David Ignatow and Charles Simic. For most of the 1990's he coordinated the Sundown Poetry Series at the Piccolo Spoleto Festival in Charleston, and then was the founding coordinator of the Literary Series at Spoleto Festival USA. The latter presented renowned poets and writers to full houses in the Dock Street Theater. He's a former chair of the Board of Governors of the SC Academy of Authors and a founding board member of the SC Book Festival. His forthcoming book of poems, YOU WERE BORN ONE TIME (96 Press, 2014), won the SC Poetry Archives Book Prize in 2013. His chapbooks include THE BIRTH GIFT, 14th STREET, and THE SLOW COMET. His manuscripts-in-process include WHEN THE BOAT MOVES (poems), SWAMPITUDE (narrative), and THE BLOODY POINT (novel). He has taught literature and writing to students at every level from elementary school to college. In 1996 he won the Writers Exchange Award sponsored by Poets & Writers, Inc. He moved to Paris in 1999, and since 2001 has lived in Beaufort, SC, with his wife, Martine, and their three children.

From You Were Born One Time:


They were walking on the moon
when we came of age.
Now look where we are.
The stars look awfully crowded
up there, but I’m no judge 
of distances. From this point
in my life everything, like the time
we had or have together, seems very far
from long enough. Tonight there is one
so thin it’s not even a sickle yet
I can see the full moon waiting 
in shadow round behind it.
What did we know when we exposed
that first sliver of ourselves?
What did we claim to be or call
the light we lived and were lit for?
It’s wide, what named and rounded us
before we turned out this way.


The banks closed when I was a kid in Rome.
Today, through the balcony Romanesque windows,
into Carolina blue, as the preacher talked
about the Pentecost, I wondered what I did.
Somehow I paid my way into the Museo Vaticano
and touched a lot of marble I wasn’t supposed
to touch, looked up with the world at the Sistine ceiling,
watched black ants feed their tunnels under the Forum,
and even chased a recommended cake to a certain grand café.
Since then, in the piling up or vanishing of days,
I’ve kept money in my pocket,
been trusted by some to show up and failed
the trust of others. Sometimes I can’t believe
a moment like this until I taste the wine
in the glass you just gave me. It was all 
a gift, and, twenty-one, I took it. Today
I maybe want him back, the silent boy
who since has touched exquisite flesh,
but who really couldn’t tell me more
than the cardinal flaming there on the walk
that my daughter has just, with pride in her work, swept clean.


Her blood is on my hand
where I gripped her slender leg,
still warm, and dragged her from the road.
It was night and her eyes still shone
futilely bright for the passing cars. They
caught me, looking up as they were
from her reclining, her eyes too late
to see or be seen except by me,
who also gripped her other leg
not yet wet from the blood
flooding where the white
tail of warning had been, her red life
now painting the road behind.
A night class had me driving home
from students who’d fidgeted
at the word “torture,” knowing
one definition of the word,
but nothing of its reach.

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