FOUR WAY INDEPENDENCE and other poems by Mark Belair


Try this at home: Sit in a chair
and count out loud to four in
a loop, then start tapping your
right foot on one and two and
your left foot on three—easy
enough—then tap your thigh
with your right hand on one
through four while keeping your
feet the same and once that’s
smooth let your left hand join
in on your left thigh tapping
three beats to your right hand’s
two—so six at the end of the loop—
and this, for drummers, is routine stuff
but of course when starting out you
choke, each limb wanting to join
its neighbor and proceed in lockstep
so you have to break it down, get
a couple of limbs going before trying
to add the others, work different
combinations of that, repeating and
repeating despite your frustration over
how hard it is to grow into syncing
simple but contradictory parts.



Its chain-link fence stands
padlocked and topped with
concertina wire while the
metal doors set in the sides
of the buildings that line it
look long bolted shut and the
iron grills that guard those
buildings’ windows seem
permanently crusted in rust
that seems also to have spread
like fire down the fire escapes
that tumble past twin floodlights
now busted, floodlights that
once lit the two junked cars
that have sat there for so long
that from around their split tires
sprout tender green shoots, shoots
that also thrive between all the
buckling paving stones that hardened
this century-old alley, this brutalized
relic of possession and abandonment
returning, at last, to its first, gentle love.


 times square

A spring breeze spirits
down worldly


Times Square at night,
its freshness


a moment


of illuminating


if you stop,
close your eyes,


and see
with your skin.




potted plant


A potted plant tucked
tight to a window


high up a building
presses its large leaves


against the glass, its fronds
crushed and entangled, its


inhibitor invisible, the
distorting effect gaudy.




First the fragrance, then—
upon turning the corner—


the sight of a sun struck
brick wall welcoming


a coat of bright whitewash,
the painter’s poled roller


reaching high up
the weathered wall


to grant it
the faithful joy


of fresh




All it took
was a whiff of rain
and some distant thunder
for the umpires and Little League coaches
to glance to one another then, as the next ominous
roll drew near, to call all the games on the overlapping fields,

the adults in nearby
softball games also dispersing,
the disappointed kids and bar-league players,
with these couple of hours already charted out, suddenly
adrift, the parents taking the kids to ice cream parlors, the aging warriors
heading back to their home pubs, all the players, young and old, still in uniform, carrying gear,

their dreams
of victory put on hold, the opportunities
offered by this found time first slowly appearing with
the appearance of milk shakes and cross-team goofing around or rounds
of draft beer and brightening bar talk—possibilities that swirled up like the storm
itself until all were struck by the bright, unexpected, electrical charge of the unplanned.



Nearing death, it must be difficult to envision the days
we’ll never see, the loss too great to contemplate—
yet how else, as we decline, to remain fully alive?


Perhaps the key would be to conjure not the unpredictable
outcomes of life’s ever-ongoing story lines, but its repetitive
facts: fresh frost, a stone plopped in a pond, a waft of hot tar—


common events we’re confident will occur, tomorrows
so familiar we can draw them into our minds with calm;
imaginings that may soothe us even further if we further


concentrate the cadences of these everyday experiences
to a single root rhythm in which all—simply for being—
rhymes; a final poem, beyond words, to memorize.


Mark Belair’s poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Alabama Literary Review, Atlanta Review, The Cincinnati Review, Harvard Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Poetry East and The South Carolina Review. His latest collection is Watching Ourselves (Unsolicited Press, 2017). Previous collections include Breathing Room (Aldrich Press, 2015); Night Watch (Finishing Line Press, 2013); While We’re Waiting (Aldrich Press, 2013); and Walk With Me (Parallel Press of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, 2012). He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize multiple times. Please visit