Singing at High Altitude / Jennifer Markell


Singing at High Altitude

poems by

Jennifer Markell

ISBN: 978-1-59948-890-5, ~88 pages, $15 (+ shipping)

Projected Release Date: November 16, 2021

An Advance Sale Discount price of $9.50 (+ shipping) is available HERE prior to press time. This price is not available anywhere else or by check. The check price is $13.50/book (which includes shipping) and should be sent to: Main Street Rag, PO BOX 690100, Charlotte, NC 28227-7001. 

PLEASE NOTE: Ordering in advance of the release date entitles the buyer to a discount. It does not mean the book will ship before the date posted above and the price only applies to copies ordered through the Main Street Rag Online Bookstore.

Jennifer Markell‘s first poetry collection, Samsara, (Turning Point, 2014) was named a “Must Read Book of Poetry” by the Massachusetts Book Awards, 2015. Her work has appeared in publications including The Bitter Oleander, The Cimarron Review, Consequence Magazine, RHINO, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and The Women’s Review of Books. She serves on the board of the New England Poetry Club and is a long-standing member of the Jamaica Pond Poets. For the past twenty years Jennifer has worked in community mental health and as a psychotherapist. She lives in Boston with her husband and two well-versed cats.

The high-altitude singing in Jennifer Markell’s poetry comes not only from birds on the wing. In these poems we hear dreams and longings, odes and elegies, love-songs and laments. We hear also of piercing childhood memories, harsh societal bewilderments, and dire ecological warnings. These beautifully crafted and deeply moving poems are the songs of ongoing life on this earth, and they rise as high as we allow our imaginations to take them. ~Fred Marchant, author of Said Not Said (Graywolf Press)


Before we were born we were just “a dab in the swirl,” says Jennifer Markell, a poet in love with the world in all its details—the “pollen grains [that] gather on anthers,” the “foxglove’s lanky bloom,” a clock whose “innards shone like vital organs.” Such love means she also thirsts to save the world, and all of us in it—the “Grocers, grooms, the falsely accused—”—a task as difficult as singing at high altitude. I’m grateful Jennifer Markell has risen to the challenge and gifted us this fine book. ~Meg Kearney, author of Home By Now and All Morning the Crows



Some days it’s okay to ask about his father,
shot down on Dot Ave. when he was five.
Travis knows his daddy in dreams—
each night he appears in the sea-green suit
they buried him in, pockets full of ice.

Each week we meet in an overheated
classroom, windows flanked by iron bars.
I like to picture Travis years from now,
a handsome black man looking back
at his twelve-year-old self
balancing on Nike Air.

Ask why he slammed a 5th grader,
he tilts his chair and tells me
he deserved it, manicures frayed cuticle
with a paper clip.

Today he’s done talking. We walk
past the Dean of Discipline’s office
to the vending machine.
Travis is thirsty, craving something
cold and sweet. Weighing his options,
he digs in his pockets for change.



hard to get a bead on god


sometimes try belief like a hat
tilting to see how things appear
under a brim run the finger
along a hollow edge & stride
through sullied alleys
haloed by faith sometimes

rest on a hard bench with the atheists
darwin & marx simone de beauvoir

consider evolution
transcendent hand
siren song of paradise

goethe drops by       if god exists
time to review the plan

raptors fly in & out of dreams
for every answer        a thousand questions
expand as time on earth recedes

sing in the shower
janis & aretha join
in the space between words
aretha looks divine in her feathered hat



Mrs. Fonseca


My son must learn to obey. Yes Ma’am
Yes Sir Officer, eyes turned down.
She sizes him down so small he’ll slip
through sidewalk cracks unseen.
Lights off, he learns
the orbit of her eyes, her leather belt.

We discuss the incident.
Logical Consequences.
What I’ve been trained to say.
What I mostly mean.
She stares at my teeth, lineup of innocents.
You think you can change the world?

She signs the treatment plan, accepts
a new mattress, toy kite we both know
will come undone in the wind.
I imagine him flying off,
landing somewhere far from here
where a rocky shore calls dibs
on a halcyon harbor.



Without a Recipe


At Passover, an improv
of matzo balls, sticky batter
simmered to plush dumpling.
My grandmother wouldn’t write
the recipe, committing me
to memory, revealed
the trick’s the density.

Too light, deprive the teeth—
nothing to resist. Worse,
the mixture crumbles, a swoon of broth.
Too heavy, the kneidlach sink
in the porcelain bowl.

When my grandmother was dying,
I sat at her side with a cool washcloth,
asked how to let go.
She said she knew no recipe,
told me to close my eyes
and imagine a child soaring on a swing.
I’m still looking for that girl,
somewhere in unmeasured
space between there and here.

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