mark hartenbach


appalachian murder ballad

the devil never called his name
didn't have to
he already had his undivided attention

when times have gotten tough
mankind has always been inclined
or felt an obligation
to make a blood offering
to put things right

some have used ritual murder
of fatted calf or out of town strangers
others have gone right for the throat
of their own kinfolk
when in need of sacrificial blood
to slap on the front door

its mankind's excuse
to act out less than divine impulse
as twisted reasoning
to do what they would do
in any case
a way to clear the conscience
as well as the slate

find a religious justification in acts
that have no spiritual significance

but is a quick sure-fire way
to learn to speak
a dead language


high noon

when the shadow gets longer
than we could ever stretch
our limitations grow more obvious

a surface logic
begging to be scratched out
or painted over

a patriarchal attitude
without the experience or wisdom
to back it up

a wounded ego
that won't fit the chalkmark
& nothing to stop the swelling

big trouble on the rise
& those survival tactics
you once swore by

aren't going to start
any discussions
or stop any repercussions



suffering can reveal so much
a painful omission

or more than you thought
you had in you

suffering can do strange things
to a man's soul

can have a positive
or negative effect

usually depending on where we've been
leading up to it

how we've been prepared
or prepared ourselves in many cases

its a wide open future
ranging from an assumed identity

with a clear shot
at something beautiful

to criminal intent

god knows
they had it coming



those who can't tell the difference
between a prayer & a sermon
are usually operating

from a small, limited perspective
either because they've been coddled
& shielded from certain ugly realities

or have too much
to ever have been tempted
they're mesmerized

with an image of themselve
on a gold-plated soapbox
they're cursed

with an absolute certainty
& complete confidence
in themselves



     mark hartenbach is lost in appalachia where he makes daily offerings to saint ishmael, the patron saint of the misfortunate, misunderstood, misjudged, mislead & misbegotten. he is currently in love with a woman he's never seen, met or imagined.

mark hartenbach

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