The Marsh

The marsh is so full of bog-men
that it must be
the world’s oldest crime-scene.
Preserved in strange angles,
their skin looks superior
than that of their contemporaries
(the down to just the bones,
the inevitable mummies).
Most of them were murdered
and simply disposed,
thrown in quick and softly sinking,
so now they go faceless,
genuflecting quietly
through the peat.
In this land of reasons,
most of us only get to be one of them,
is why I’m so afraid
of all the terrible company
I’ve been keeping.
Most explorers set out
with better intentions
than being remembered
for eating one another
as they waited out the 1800s,
their perfect handwriting
filling seal-skin diaries
first with imaginary pathologies
to explain the missing
unto their cruel posterity,
and then the scientific measurements
they kept collecting
as if tethered to their own breathing
at last, finally, only by numbers.
They buried their tools
facing due north
to point the way
for those who would go farther,
and then fell cold
in momentary poses
to await their own discovery.
Ah humanity! goes the ending
of my favorite ending,
which begins Ah Bartleby!
And I guess it never really ends,
this life between us
and the what it is
in our best moments
we glimpse just past the data
we’ve spent so long gathering.
It’s cold tonight,
and I can’t decide
if it would be worse
to disappear completely
from the historical record
or to be repeated
as some old hag
on the liminal periphery
of a condescending anecdote
about why some kids were crying.
Every day, I use my bones
to triangulate the person
I’ve been harvesting.
I keep trying to get it right,
I mean I keep yelling
very quietly
because my love is sleeping,
and yes, I do love her,
but also I am furious,
I am a furious voter,
and my mouth is full
of dollars.

***

Christopher DeWeese is the author of The Black Forest (Octopus Books). He is Assistant Professor of Poetry at Wright State University and lives in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

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