by Joshua Poteat

selected by Mary Oliver

from Meditations In the Margins of the 1941 Catalogue of Dover Books


i. Uniforms of the American Revolution Coloring Book

I apologize on behalf of the dead.
                            They do not mean to hurt us.

                 They show us a way to be in the world,
                             then leave us for the deer and salt licks,
the reed-shrouded fog in the marsh.
I knew a dead person once,
                                                  and I consider myself lucky.
To wear the ghost of him
                   like an untanned bear hide brought me
                                                  a secret pleasure I have never felt since.

Who needs lungs when you're flying
                                                                    among the trees?

                 It's what the taxidermists all say:
                                We construct the infinite spirit
and you ignore the palpable soul.
Think of it.
To wear the uniform of the dead
                                is to walk through mountains.

                 Show me the way to the doorless sea,
                                to the river of brine and day,
and I'll give you hands to breathe again, lads,
                 the most important things you'll need                                                         to hold this land
that will never be yours.

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