The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Tuesday

The Book of the Dead Man (#19)
By Marvin Bell

1. About the Dead Man and Winter

When the dead man's skin turns black and blue, he thinks it is winter.
In winter, the dead man gathers and insists, slipping his collective
unconscious forward like a blue glacier.
When flowers turn under, he sees the stars blooming above, florid
their icy reaches.
When leaves desert the trees, he reads the calligraphy of the limbs.
The dead man endures material eternity with a shy smile.
The dead man in winter envelops, he encircles, he reaches around
him like the possibility of wings on a butterfly.
In winter, the dead man tries on chaos in its fixed form.
His hollow deformity lasts and lasts, his shapely presence maintains
the look it was given: that much longer is he gripped.
The dead man knows why the cherry tree waits for spring.
The dead man senses the earth going to sleep, he feels the vast
organism within which he is a brainy parasite sputter
and collapse.
The dead man waits with the bear in its cave and the rabbit in its
hutch in the snow.
To reduce pain and swelling, the dead man takes six months of
The dead man swallows winter, he applies it, he rubs it in, he wears it
for support.
The dead man's head in winter lies like a cabbage in repose.
Under a blanket of dormant weeds, he basks in the brittle formality
of the gray salon.
When there is no adversity, no rise and fall, no ascension, no
planet too unstable, no ship in the sky better than another for
the journey of a lifetime.
The dead man's white flame is the last trace of ash.
The dead man through the scrawny stalks of beheaded weeds offers
up the slightest scent of a place where live fish wait to be
thawed and roots fall silent.
No one knows better than the dead man the chalk made from
common materials that accretes around each organism
deprived of water.
The dead man in winter is not just winter.

2. More About the Dead Man and Winter

The dead man in winter is the source of spring.
The dead man turns equally to all seasons with the cachet of a guest
only momentarily served and all too soon departed.
What do you mean, not wiping the glass of the dead man's
What do you mean, disengaging from his small talk to rush to the side
of fake heads of state?
The dead man freezes out the relentlessly glamorous, he does not
wecome the vain nor host the proud, he turns from photos
with too much hair and tilted heads, he absconds before the
heat goes on in the bedroom.
To the dead man, all social gatherings are wintry.
To the dead man, a turn of the head leads to an ear full of dirt.
Oh winter, the season of warm hors d"oeuvres and cold counsel.
The dead man is the drumbeat of winter.
Among the frozen, among the polar thinking caps and arctic
questions, among the sled tracks and boot crevasses, among
every poised paw print and running hoof mark, among the
etched signatures of survival that everywhere mark the
surface, the dead man models for eternity.
The dead man in winter is in heaven.


This morning my younger son woke me up to ask whether he had enough money to buy an emperor penguin puppet that he had seen in a nearby toy store. I told him I wasn't sure, considering that he had no idea how much the puppet cost, and he wanted to know whether we could go check after school. All morning we were warned about impending snow possibly causing a disastrous afternoon rush hour, so I ended up running out to the store without him -- he had Mad Science after school, so it would have been after 4 p.m. before we all could have gone. They had the puppet, which I bought (and forwarded him some allowance money to pay for), and they had Cicely Mary Barker's Fairyopolis so I promptly spent the $10 my husband's grandmother had sent me for my birthday, too. *g* (I love the flower fairies books, have a miniature set of all of them from many years ago.)

The lovely perkypaduan stopped by in the afternoon to pick up the pass I won for the Thursday screening of Brokeback Mountain that I can't use because my son's chorus recital coincides (the same thing happened to me in the spring with Cinderella Man). So we had soup and hung out for awhile. My mother stopped by three times -- once with gloves she had bought for my sons because they insisted that they didn't have any (the truth is that they did not want to wear the gloves they had from last year), once because my older son for some inexplicable reason called to ask whether she would pick him up from the bus rather than calling me to ask the same question, and once because, while driving home, she passed my younger son returning from Mad Science and gave him a lift. Apparently my sister has been so beastly to my parents this month that I am the Good Daughter without any great effort on my part.

Am watching the tragedy of the Philadelphia Eagles vs. the Seattle Seahawks. It's snowing much more heavily in Philly than here and every time they show the skyline I get nostalgic. I am completely apathetic about whether or not the Redskins salvage their season and relieved that the Giants beat Dallas, but no team should have to lose 42-0.

The Pennsylvania Memorial at Gettysburg Battlefield, dedicated in 1910.

From below Little Roundtop, the 44th and 12th N.Y. Infantry Memorial. Visitors can climb halfway up the tower, which gives the widest views of Devil's Den, the Valley of Death and Cemetery Ridge.

There are smaller memorials like this one all over the national park, marking the spots where various infantry divisions made their stands and where their men fell. Here is the story of this one. These trees will not come down; this area was wooded when the 15th Alabama charged the Union line.

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