Poetry » Mark Watney »


The Tree in the middle of my Flat

In the middle of my flat one day
A tree began to grow,
and spread its branches everywhere
I sat or slept or ate.

I liked the tree
but found it always in my way—
for wherever in my home I went
the tree was sure to grow.

It grew into my kitchen first
and spread its branches up to find
my scrambled eggs and I.
It poked a twig into my coffee
and twirled itself around my fork
and fingers while I ate.

It grew into my bathroom next
and curled around the lavatory
It dipped its branches in my tub
and sniffed and poked around in there
between my duck and coffee cup and soap.

And finally its roots broke through
the mattress of my bed
and curled and grew and twirled around
my body while I slept.
And when I woke I found myself
entangled up and bound:
my roots and hers
now one.

I love the tree
but find it always in my way—
for wherever in my life I go
the tree is sure to grow.


The lamp sputtered,
The lamp muttered in the dark.

                              – T. S. Eliot

The moon which bathed the street
Is out now
And a lonely street lamp
Sputters in the dark
Mutters in the dark:
“Who is this lady getting into my bed?”

The light in his eyes
Is out now
And His hand grips shards of memory
And shakes them angrily about:
Memories of a wife he cannot find
And work which has to be done
And a house which isn’t there
In the dark streets
Under a moon which has lost its memory.

He shuffles from lamp to lamp
And stops to pee on the piano
(Its white porcelain keys offer relief)
He eats a handful of tiny sea shells
(The crunching sounds are comforting—like the memory of oats)
And bites into an onion
(it makes him weep—yet he keeps biting)

Homeless memories shuffle from street to street
Inside his darkening brain
Wondering where to go
Now that the moon is out
And only the street lamp
Sputters in the dark
Mutters in the dark:
“I want to go home
Oh please God!
I want to go home.”

Snails: Three Perspectives

Like a band of gypsies
They rummage and ramshackle our property
Destroying and hideously decorating our roses
With their horrible slimy bodies.
Their children, their houses, and their luggage, they transport
And camp in our garden without rent or due.

And suddenly human darkness enters the garden
And the blackness of boots descends upon the slugs.
And so great was the devastation of the squatters thereof
That the sound of crushed shells
And the smells of smashed snails
Reached to the ends of the rose bushes thereof.

The penalty for unpaid rent is high.
Their silver threads
Like lonely trails
Led to Eden
And death.

But I was afraid

In the middle of the journey of our life
I found myself lost
For I had strayed off the straight path
                              –Dante’s Inferno

In the middle of the journey of our life
(It’s my life!)

I found myself lost
(Who the hell gave me these directions?)

For I had strayed off the straight path
(I’ll blaze my own bloody trail!)

Because I was afraid:

The Beast was drooling and sidling up to me.
It looked so real; oh God it looked so real—
(I forgot it wasn’t real)

I just forgot.
And the fear just came.
And I forgot

That lions round here don’t have teeth.
That they only roar and drool
And smell fear

And eat hate
And urinate
But I was afraid.