Poems: Marshall Mallicoat


There is no heat,
only the tiny
who rub your skin

when quickened by the sun.

To be without them
is a horrible
to crest a hill
and feel no warmth at all.


The Condemned Man

I’m waiting on the breakers to cross the sea and break me.
My death has been delayed—delay upon delay.

I’m waiting on a letter which will spell my future.
While waiting I can do nothing, nothing but wait.

The scroll of days unwinds and curls around my feet.
Like blessed Lady Jane the Nine-Day Queen I pray,

axeman, dispatch me quickly; or else pass me over
and stay this train of tears of which we want no more.



I’ve done a census of the house’s lightbulbs
and to each room assigned a single lamp.
I wait for every molecule of air
to stagger out before I seal the chamber,
empty except for one buddha ablaze.

It all comes down to billable hours: how many
you salvage from the wreckage of the day.
My only leverage is my readiness
to eat from the trash, to glean an ugly orange.
I may be poor but at least I have my Latin:

enough to puzzle through the epigraphs
that stain these ancient leaves, preserved I fear
merely to humble me. If I am likewise
carried into the future, I must pray
that by the many hands I’m scoured clean.


Burning Wheel

I count my pain in pills. I tally them,
each one recorded in my diary.
My stomach’s wrecked. I’ve burnt a hole straight through it.
Each day, I climb the wheel and fall again.

I only need these teeth to last a while,
until I’m lowered in the grave smiling.
I am a wishbone, bent until I snap,
returning my good luck unto the world.

I’ve passed my peak and now begun descent.
In bed, I turn my life over and over,
petitioning Fortuna, make me well.
If I am sick, then make me well again.


Marshall Mallicoat is a poet from Kansas, currently living in Chicago. His work has appeared in NY Tyrant, Electric Literature, and some other places.

Submit a comment