The bog people of Denmark
have the look of bronze statues,
their skin preserved, it is said,
by earth’s tannic acid.
As we seal them in vacuums—
eyeless and leathery—
they seem eager to tell us their names,
to recite their grievance against the
whose bones have long dissolved
in a churchyard without requiems.
Someone beside me is dying to know
what it is like to lie centuries underground
next to another, not willfully silent.
It is, I say, if you can remember—
like waiting in an antechamber,
counting your pulse, ready to be sworn.
Ask me; I will testify.
These men with leather briefcases
impenetrable to truth
are hurrying past statues in hallways,
counting on rhetoric and influence—
while the bog people on hard benches
still wait to be heard.
from her book The Other Side of Sleep
Portals Press, 1995
Used by permission of the poet and with special permission from Portals Press.
Listen to John Gery reading Maxine Cassin’s