Standing with Alyosha by Mark Hiskes


I once asked a surgeon what it’s like to heal people. He shook his head, a no, and said, “Surgeons don’t heal people. We fix things that have gone wrong. Others heal people, certainly certain poets do.” A mystery. However, the difference between fixing and offering the healing that comes from deep understanding, firm comfort, from a profoundly informed intuition as to what to say and when, and a fierce allegiance to the life of the soul live throughout Mark Hiskes’s Standing with Alyosha. These poems lead us into the truth of paradox, a place where we sigh and within that sigh discover joy. When you wander within these poems, you will once again recognize that “braver still are” those who sit with the difficulty of others. As Hiskes writes in the title poem “It’s the place of darkness/at crossroads everywhere,/ offering bewildered travelers/light enough to glimpse/the willing figure love makes or/the long, shivering shadow of its retreat.” This is a poet who has spent years honing his art and a lifetime walking into another’s “place of darkness” bringing “the willing figure love makes.” —Jack Ridl

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  • Kind: Perfectbound
  • Pages: 106
  • Language: English
  • Date Published: March, 2019
  • ISBN: 978-1-948017-37-4


Mark Hiskes writes with the wisdom of a teacher humbled and seasoned, yet lit by an unfailing love of literature and the incandescence of adolescence; of a husband and father embracing both deep joy and sharp, specific pain; and of a man of faith open to the ephemeral and the quotidian. Each poem in this lovely collection is drawn with honesty, grit, and a constant thread of grace.”  —Lorna Jane Cook

The quiet, steady authenticity of these lyric poems find us nodding, sensing how deeply we need the wisdom Mark Hiskes offers. Wisdom gleaned from living with eyes and heart wide open – as a teacher, husband, father, son, brother and friend.  Again and again, his poems name our sorrows and joys, our fears and hopes, showing us a way, grounded in faith, to hold fast to wonder and hope – even now, even here. —Colette Volkema DeNooyer

Mark Hiskes has paid attention to his life and the mysteries and wonders of life around him. The result is this accessible and exquisite collection of poems. His words show us what it looks like to live with goodness and faithfulness. —Jeffrey Munroe


What I’d Tell Hamlet
for each of my students

Be, I’d tell him. By all means, be. But first
I’d take him to the back booth at J.P.’s,
buy us each a White Chocolate Therapy,
venti—we’d want to take our time. I’d be
Horatio, listening without judgment, for
heaven knows Hamlet’s had his fill of that. I’d
sip my drink as he cupped his hands around his,
recalling the misunderstood note to Ophelia,
the guilt over that impulse stab at Polonius,
the last-minute forgiveness with Laertes. I’d
tear up at his talk of “father”—the love that never
bloomed, the revenge that never rested, the
longing for that father-son bond he’d seen
among the groundlings at the Globe. What son,
what father doesn’t know that awful ache?
I’d let him talk, this man, this piece of work,
whose poet’s heart was hushed too soon,
whose brief iambic tune had forked more lightning
than any prince before or since, save one. . . . .


Mark Hiskes grew up in Chicago, the seventh of eight kids lucky enough to be raised by Harold and Everdean.  He has been blessed to be an English teacher for 35 years. When he’s not grading papers, he loves to walk, read, write, hang out in classrooms with students, and refurbish old furniture with Cindy for her antique business. On good days, he manages to do a little of all five. He and Cindy have proudly raised two children, Peter and Mary, who are off on family adventures of their own. Mark and Cindy live near the foxes in Holland, Michigan.

Additional information

Weight 7.2 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × .375 in