Roger Mitchell


...deep morasses overshadowed by millions of gi-
               gantic, dark, moss-
covered cypresses which seem to admonish in-
               truding man to pause and reflect on the
                              difficulties ahead.” Said difficulties un-
specified. E-
               nough that the mind pitches toward that knot.

“...almost inaccessible recesses...a tangle
               of massive trunks
fallen, decaying trees, huge projecting branches,
               thousands of creeping and twining plants
                              of numberless species...its oozing, spongy mire...
beautiful but
               treacherous carpet...richest mosses, flags...”

“A clearing proves to be...a lake of black mud...His ear
               assailed by
dismal croaking...hissing of serpents...bellowing
               of...Would that I could give you...the sultry,
                              pestiferous atmosphere that nearly...during
the noon-day heat...
               dog-days in those gloomy..horrible swamps.”

“Its rich scalp attached to its upper mandible forms
               an ornament
for the war-dress of most of our Indians, or
               for the shot-pouch of squatters and hunters,
                              by all of whom the bird is shot merely for that
purpose. I have
               seen whole belts of Indian chiefs closely

ornamented with the tufts and bills of this species.
               Travellers of
all nations are also fond of possessing
               the upper part of the head and the bill
                              of the male.” Who “strike with great violence...
inflict severe
               wounds...utter a mournful...piteous cry.”


               “Boston had solved
the universe,” wrote Adams (Henry), but for that
               tiny blemish, slavery. Teutonic
                              objectivity, Yankee reticence, and Mount
Vernon Street’s close
               proximity to its own ideas

relieved Henry, not just of deity and doubt, but,
               too, the word, “I,”
so troublesome, invasive, slippery, open
               to all sorts of tendentious distortion
                              (longings masked as polity; enslavements, freedoms;
confinements, rights),
               I barely breathes in uttering the like.


Muddying the waters, Euripedean Bacchae
               prod Agave
into hunting her own son down, tear him apart
               for wanting to witness what he did not
                              (could not?) join. She, of course, not told who he was, kept
in the dark by
               avenging Dionysus, jealous boy with

too much power. Pentheus, prurient but afraid,
               prefers control
to getting his hands bloody, pushes all troubling
               thought to the back of a dirty closet,
                              looks at but denies his fascination with what
fears him, misrule,
               woman, she who could bare more than breasts.


One form of secrecy supports another. Concern
               over terror
at home turns into the rationale for crushing
               nations, when in fact the real terror
                              is having others control oil or develop
               technology equal (almost) to ours.

A free country, or one working its way slowly toward
               that possible
goal, determines that freedom is power, that raw
               dominance assures equality, wars
                              are necessary instruments in persuading
the reluctant
               (others) to see matters as we decide

them right. A group (we) to which I do not belong, but
               from which there can
be no distancing, however far up a dirt
               road or close to the border one parks one’s
                              thoughts. Snow purifies the look of things, and mountains
maintain their mass
               and distance, but the air shimmers with dread.

Roger Mitchell is the author of eleven books of poetry, among them Lemon Peeled the Moment Before: New and Selected Poems (2008). Two previous books include Half/Mask (2007) and Delicate Bait (2003). He is Poetry Editor for the ezine, Hamilton Stone Review, and lives in Jay, New York.
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