Adam Tavel

Ode to the Name Mark

            for Mark Cox

At birth the violet splotch your mother hoped
would fade became, in time, the spot she kissed
at night when whimpered gibberish escaped
your lips and reached her sleepless at the sink.

And now that sink is where you hunch and scrub
the purple grading ink that leaked inside
your Dockers pocket with a splayed toothbrush
you found amid the junk drawer’s screws and keys.

You swirl detergent into suds that froth,
and soak, and for a time obscure the blotch’s
dampened fabric. Sleepless, you kick the sheets
as the agitator churns its universe.

Such cacophony and water wasted
on such a little thing, you think, tousle-haired
before your morning coffee and the dryer.
You jog. You take your pants warm and wrinkled

and snap them straight before you steam
their creases back. All day your fingers sneak
to daub the stain no hand but yours can trace,
the mark that drowns and burns and will not fade.

Ode to Washcloths

Tatter-edged, your folded rainbow fails
to hide wispy faded tags or threads
that snagged upon some distant
morning’s panic razor. But how perfect

your fluffy stack is until my children
tumble it down like drunkards
who zigzag the corridor at dawn,
clattering breakfast carts while peepholes

gawk with groggy eyes. How many times
have you redeemed my toes
from sweat, sock-dust, neanderthal
grime from running shoes so foul they bloom

stink on a screened porch? How often
do you unsavage my pits & ass
only to drip half-wrung in wan light
streaming through the frosted

shower window while beyond
a flock of clothesline sleeves
flutter in spring’s everlasting
detergent commercial? O little squares,

O mute reprieves, O devourers
of stale days stewing, at least
you aren’t your hotel kin without
dye, those starched sentries on the rack

rolled up like cloth burritos, doomed
to the funk & shame parade
of strangers beneath a relentless pelt,
then wadded up & left to suffocate

in chute-sacks while the incessant
cacophonic roar of the washroom churns
hours till a callused hand tosses each
into vats, rank with bleach & scalding.

Author Portrait

Adam Tavel won the Permafrost Book Prize for Plash & Levitation (University of Alaska Press, 2015). He is also the author of The Fawn Abyss (Salmon Poetry, forthcoming) and the chapbook, Red Flag Up (Kattywompus, 2013). Tavel won the 2010 Robert Frost Award, and his recent poems appear in Beloit Poetry Journal, Sycamore Review, Passages North, The Journal, Potomac Review, American Literary Review, and Crab Orchard Review among others.

View the website of Adam Tavel