The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Mark DeFoe



Once a famous man in a notorious speech
told the old story about throwing down your bucket
where you stand and drawing up the pure, good water.
Hoist yourself up, don’t reach too far. Don’t demand.
Don’t see your problem as everyone’s problem.
Wait and believe that kindness is coming.

The suffering of the world assaults me.
Huge, sad eyes and bloated bellies, a child
picking rice grains from a blanket in Somalia.
What would you have me do, Reader? Give up
my treasure to wander that blasted plain,
find that wretched child, comfort it, feed it?

But what of those I left behind, without
protector, provider? What of my here and now?
What of the swaying bridge I build each day
to span my own pit of chaos? My knees buckle.
I have not bread enough to feed the world,
so I give sad dollars to those who dig wells.

I gather close those I can lift above
the cold rapids. I do not go numb at
the touch of their hands or silence the lilt
of their laughter. I should be ashamed, but
my love is cruel. My love is selfish.
I will abandon all those not my own.



Mark DeFoe

Small Town Anger


Between decency and kindness. Between

the hugging Mee-maws and the coaches who get

every kid in the game, come outbursts--pent up.

Long- festering. Never forgotten


The dog shot for killing Co Co the cat,

the cheerleader not chosen, the trash cans left to

roll in the street, a man with wandering fingers,

a woman eager to be wandered upon,

the neighbor’s rotten maple hanging over

the new kitchen, some clown convinced it’s his

God-given right to park his three scabby-ass,

busted down pickups in his front yard, By God!


Usually it morphs to local myth, a yarn

told with a bemused shake of the head, though

once in a while, some guy, laid off at the mill,

and deep in despair, will barricade himself

in his house. The town cops get pissed. But folks

round here can shoot, even if they are shitfaced.

So everyone tries to dial it back a notch,

hoping that his x-wife can talk him down to earth.


Things can take a turn, and no prayers can bend

a bullet’s path. It’s not Chicago. Still, it’s sad.

People get maimed or worse. Sometimes our preachers

Shame us from the pulpit, but nobody

really knows what Jesus would have done.




MARK DeFOE is Professor Emeritus of English at West Virginia Wesleyan College where he teaches in Wesleyan's MFA Writing Program. DeFoe's work has appeared in journals. anthologies and textbooks. He is the winner of the 2005 Chautauqua Literary Journal's national poetry competition. His work has been three times nominated for the Push Card Prize. In 2009 he won the Tennessee Chapbook Award. His tenth chapbook, In the Tourist Cave, was published in 2012 by Finishing Line Press.



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