Between Rock and Hard Place by Victor Marrero


The queries of our age demand to know 
much more than we will ever know or admit
even to ourselves. Our beleaguered figures 
on display, curios of these corridors, inspire probing. 
Invasion comes without explanation. Off the charts. 
Our images chronicle calcified fractures of the past, 
record the minimalist chatter of present 
now drained of remembrance and aspiration. 
Pressed between rock and hard place, airless 
and indisposed like miners trapped  in a cave, 
we are seized from all sides by suffocation 
and tightening chests. Each day it gets harder 
to breathe, to hold on, to let go. We get by on doses 
of false anecdotes vowing a miraculous cure.  


Nights in the dark, the exit sign 
draws rapt attention to itself, 
commanding egress by the back door. 
Background noise like Muzak from hidden speakers 
strains on. Variations on a dirge of rest and peace 
meant to sooth agitate instead when ghostly hosts 
the notes evoke inject more dysfunction 
into all the routine we forget. 
Familiars no longer familiar fail to restore recollection 
or draw a glimmer of solace from the cameo smile 
we must feign as faint shield 
from lingering expectancies and age-old pain.

This cadence of blank verse 
cannot sustain the sputter 
of an ancient clock as it unwinds. 
All alarms are ringing.
The purple heart’s gears throb in retreat.
The barometer fails to gauge our blood’s impulse stuck in reverse.
And holiness nostrums oversell the wonders 
of other-world bounties 
held past the expiration of warranties. 
The downward spiral of things. 
Life surges earthbound to the pull of gravity, 
rolling like a tide drawn by a droll face of the moon,
receding between ebb and more ebb.


The posture of our spines 
works past overload these days.  
Its arc bows under time’s duress
beneath leveling blows
curled like the hump 
of a question mark that asks 
at the end of each line 
what should be done 
about the longevity of a sentence 
served inside a bell curve
where no way out unlocks
and the down slope runs on 
and on and drags a long tail 
like a relict beast.

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