Bilingual Edition German/English
LILIOM Verlag, 2012
$20.00 (Cover illustration by Mike Sleadd)
Poet as Grand Marshal of the Fall Parade
Doubting the gravitas, the decorum, it’s poetry after all,
and being led by a Boy Scout honor guard that’s following a police car’s
flashing lights, their brown shirts sashed with merit badges,
and behind them the poet bucket-seated in a low-riding wine-dark sports car.
From a small bag, he tosses candy to children who are wondering
why they’re not watching Saturday morning cartoons, knowing Halloween
is a month off. Standing with their plastic Wal-Mart and Moser bags,
costumed in sleep they wake to the brash high school marching band
as it gracelessly plays what is half-remembered after so few weeks of practice
this early in the school year. The cough and clatter of two diesel tractors,
a wagon pulled by mules, another by horses, the women’s garden club
armed with rakes and shovels, the women’s Red Hat Society, a rabble
from the Chamber of Commerce, the mayor biking in circles
around the too slow procession, and whatever else joins in..
The poet agreed thinking this is what football players are adored into doing,
but he’s never led a team to victory much less played, and he considered wearing
shoulder pads outside his suit with poems scrawled in inch-high letters on
the plastic, but he was afraid to confuse the mile-long, one-person-deep crowd
more than they already were as he passed out poems once the candy ran out.
At first the body was thought to be the missing boy from last year,
lost on a class trip
along the Baltic Sea; then it was the man who left the Danish bar one hour
before New Year’s fireworks
and hasn’t been seen in a decade; or the wife, forty years
since she walked out
of the grocery store, there’s that little left. Perhaps it’s all of them returning
their secrets in this one body, but there’s something odd about the throat,
to ear, rope burns, cracked skull, head half shaved, blindfolded, feet broken,
left arm severed, chest wound, and staked down, yet resting peacefully,
face beatific, each wound sacred.
Preserved peat-perfect: forehead smooth, skin relaxed, one side of the face
an interminable sleep, stubble on the chin, knees folded fetally, missing
for two millennia
and no one missing. Waterlogged, acidic tannins turning skin to leather,
for police finger printing, though the crime will never be known. Tacitus records
that in Germania,
98 A.D., The coward, the unwarlike, the man stained with abominable vices, is plunged
into the mire or the morass.
Or for other reasons . . . purified in a secret lake, slaves perform the rite,
who are instantly swallowed up by its waters.
The sacrificed, the executed, resurfacing with us, who day by day wonder the way
and wander the difference.