Tag Archives: Mark Saba

That House

By Mark Saba

I sit on a dry patch
of colorless earth, an empty lot
situated neatly between two Depression-era
brown and tan brick homes.

There is no evidence of charred wood,
nor garden of tomato and pepper plants.
The lot has shrunken from its three-story home.
Now termites have no where to go

and bees search aimlessly for phantom flowers.
Even the front steps are gone. My stroke-stricken aunt
has no handrail to guide her, my grandmother
no place to grieve for a lost son.

I have no windows to wash for her,
nor adventures in her stoic attic.
We have only the sun now
but nothing seems to grow.

I am sitting in a desert
hoping to dream up a world
but a green awning hangs over me
keeping out the elements: the storms

of summer, tilled soil of spring,
scented air of Christmas
and inanimate fire
that consumes us all.


Mark Saba has been writing fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction for 40 years. His book publications include four works of fiction and three of poetry, most recently Two Novellas: A Luke of All Ages / Fire and Ice (fiction), Calling the Names (poetry) and Ghost Tracks (stories about Pittsburgh, where he grew up). His work has appeared widely in literary magazines around the U.S. and abroad. He is also a painter and works as a medical illustrator at Yale University. Please see marksabawriter.com.

Lost Souls

By Mark Saba

Light turns on and off.
Fine needles fall from the pines,
intersections of tree shadow
and broken limbs lying ashen
in the brown ruin of past lives.

The young evergreens stand dwarfed
in defiance, their roots nourished
by those who’ve come before.
There is too much music
I haven’t heard.

It’s out there in the green
of dying summer, lyrics and notes
fusing in a future wonder
of fall color. But much of it
is past, and I am a lonely atom

in a universe of beautiful souls
who have given themselves
to the art of reordering the fallen leaves
so that we see the color of past years,
peeking through summer, still warm

under a phantom snow.


Mark Saba has been writing fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction for 40 years. His book publications include four works of fiction and three of poetry, most recently Two Novellas: A Luke of All Ages / Fire and Ice (fiction), Calling the Names (poetry) and Ghost Tracks (stories about Pittsburgh, where he grew up). His work has appeared widely in literary magazines around the U.S. and abroad. He is also a painter and works as a medical illustrator at Yale University. Please see marksabawriter.com.

On Reading the Death Certificate

By Mark Saba

On reading the death certificate
of my father, aged 29, my brother said
What do you make of the interval

between onset and death?
What do I make of the tiny cells
that stood ready to multiply

in the deepest part of his brain?
How long did they wait there?
In the interval between onset and death

he hopped the rooftops of a Pittsburgh
neighborhood with his cousin Ralph.
In the interval between onset and death

he sat diligently in a high school
political theory class, wondering what part of him
reared by Italian immigrants

might allow him to speak. In the interval
he sat with our mother in the booth
of the drug store soda fountain.

In the interval they found each other’s bodies
on their wedding night, amazed.
In the interval he drove over snowy roads

to pick up our grandmother from the 54C
streetcar, a boxful of pizzelles in her hand.
He measured out pills, elixirs, and ointments

in a profession that allowed him to find order
in a senseless world. In the interval
he forgot who he was, his senses slowly dulled

as he lay breathing in a hospital bed
surrounded by blinding lights, remembering
reels of home movies of us he’d shot

wondering what might have been real.


Mark Saba has been writing fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction for 40 years. His book publications include four works of fiction and three of poetry, most recently Two Novellas: A Luke of All Ages / Fire and Ice (fiction), Calling the Names (poetry) and Ghost Tracks (stories about Pittsburgh, where he grew up). His work has appeared widely in literary magazines around the U.S. and abroad. He is also a painter and works as a medical illustrator at Yale University. Please see marksabawriter.com.

Old Shirts

By Mark Saba

My beloved T-shirts, worn ragged,
washed to the color of dust, yet
imprinted with my scent

carry everything I’ve witnessed—
their first days of my rejuvenation,
trial period of comfort, and final stretch

of willful obscurity—
as I met with triumph and despair
watching the orioles return,

my mother die, the sunlight of seawater,
my daughter admitted to rehab.
In the end I retire them

to the taboret of my painting studio
where, one by one, I use them to collect
excessive brushstrokes, unplanned arrays

of cadmium color, as I create new worlds
on a blank canvas, and those second skins
provide new comfort, their abandoned lives

awakened to new purpose.


Mark Saba has been writing fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction for 40 years. His book publications include four works of fiction and three of poetry, most recently Two Novellas: A Luke of All Ages / Fire and Ice (fiction), Calling the Names (poetry) and Ghost Tracks (stories about Pittsburgh, where he grew up). His work has appeared widely in literary magazines around the U.S. and abroad. He is also a painter and works as a medical illustrator at Yale University. Please see marksabawriter.com.

Tabula Rasa

By Mark Saba

Three of my books lie unopened.
My wife lies absently on the couch
gone to a digital novel world.

A fire heaves in its designated hearth.
I am in and out of it,
in and out of my thoughts

as my body grows older.
Lacking the courage to write them down
I flounder in semi-sleep

remembering the title of a news article
proclaiming the latest discovery: that
in our universe, present and future occur

simultaneously. I think about
the poems I’ve written, love letters,
fiction. It all comes back to me

yet future plans delete them
from my list of accomplishments.
There is too much death on the horizon,

a triumphant tabula rasa that will have
the final say, that I will remember
even when nothing is written.


Mark Saba has been writing fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction for 40 years. His book publications include four works of fiction and three of poetry, most recently Two Novellas: A Luke of All Ages / Fire and Ice (fiction), Calling the Names (poetry) and Ghost Tracks (stories about Pittsburgh, where he grew up). His work has appeared widely in literary magazines around the U.S. and abroad. He is also a painter and works as a medical illustrator at Yale University. Please see marksabawriter.com.