Mark J. Mitchell

They came first for the stones—the atheists.
Our fire stayed safe. I watched. I fed. Its glow
held strong, comforting as a matron’s kiss.
Outside, Goths haunt holy walls. I resist
with devotions only flames and I know.

When that horrid woman grabbed the necklace

from Vesta’s neck, I screamed once, and she left.
They’ll come back so soon. Aromatic woods flared
that night. The next. I stayed awake, aware
of invading spears, barbaric shouts. Black smoke
is climbing over the walls. Let them choke—

the atheists. I know what prayer is meant for.
I kneel on ancient tiles. The sacred floor
remains holy. Curses curdle each night
now. The goddess stays strong. I’m weak. I lie
on cold tesserae, wait for broken stones
to bury me quick. If I’d been unchaste,
that’s the sentence. I’ve always slept alone.
The godless ones are coming—my unburned fate.


Mark J. Mitchell was born in Chicago and grew up in southern California. His latest poetry collection, Starting from Tu Fu  was just published by Encircle Publications. A new collection is due out in December from Cherry Grove.

He is very fond of baseball, Louis Aragon, Miles Davis, Kafka and Dante. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the activist and documentarian, Joan Juster where he made his marginal living pointing out pretty things. Now, like everyone else, he’s unemployed.

He has published 2 novels and three chapbooks and two full length collections so far. Titles on request.

A meager online presence can be found at