Mark D. Rhoads

Professor, Poet, Musician

No Gathering In of this Incense: Poems

Memory is like incense: as the censor passes, so does the intensity of the aroma, leaving only faint wisps.  The substance is ephemeral, becoming vague and imprecise with the passing of time.

No gathering in of the incense of our past can reveal a precise picture or bring back the past in such a way that we can lay hold of it. It inevitably slips through our fingers. But the wisps of memory that surround us—like the smell of brewing coffee or a pungent perfume—have the power to delight or disgust, to influence our present and shape our future.

These poems uncover scraps of an ordinary story told with as much truth and substance as the incense of memory can evoke; ordinary in that the struggle between discontentment and serenity, fear and confidence, gravity and humor, conflict and reconciliation, disappointment and fulfillment, sadness and joy, death and life, is the natural topography of our humanity.


“By profession, Mark Rhoads is a musician, a choral conductor, and a historian of American hymnody. Now the voices of each, translated into the music of poetry, is audible in his poems, where he sings of Chevrolets and God, flawed parents and tragic children, desire and loss, seductions and death wishes and souls and fishing, all composed in harmony and discord. Carry these poems ‘in your breast pocket/let them burn through/to make a scar/over your heart.’”
WAYNE ROOSA, artist and art historian, St Paul, MN

“Mark Rhoads writes a kind of poem that pays attention to holy moments in earthly places: gardens, basements, battlefields—and, even, the upheaving breasts of a trio of cheerleaders on a sideline. He gives to each a richness and a dignity of the human reaching toward and beyond itself. In these pages you will meet a good man speaking good words. Settle in, listen, and let your heart reply.”
PAUL J. WILLIS, author of Say this Prayer into the Past

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