Nocturne with the Mummified Remains of a Girl Pulled from a Bog

by Oliver de la Paz

It is a difficult thing, the skin and the skin’s new form
and how what’s missing grows large, as if the source

of something that once drew warmth had poured out,
the sack of the body, filled with sawdust and sewn up.

The knot of fingers folded into a bramble fence. Soft tissue
stiffened to the texture of a ballet slipper, and the elegant

foot, somehow gone from its housing. Here is where
the slippage of selves floats its weight into the deep swales

of summer: the nights are warm and the sphagnum hushes
every sound. Its density troubles the landscape with thatches,

pockets, small underpinnings. Indeterminacies. The bowl
at the center of the bog, deep enough to cover a man

from head to toe in sludge. And the frogs call their soft songs
to find each other in the fog. The frogs stir from deep within

the mist and confuse themselves with their sound. A singular
hum. A singular engine with the sole industry of determining

love. Love, love, they say. Their white throats fire their outbursts.
It is easy to lose yourself among the singers and the dark.

And this is how to begin—softly, the foot presses against
the wet dark peat. Softly the curses of breath rise up

from the breast bone, and to the mouth, the acidic grit of bog’s
dark jade. Into the nose, the terrible intercessions of muck

rushing past the septum into the throat and down, further down.
And from the mind, the bright lariats of holly around a table.

The faces of family, heavenward, lit by the last auroras of something,
a memory pressed against a monstrous glass. It is here

where the body resides and the skin empties its contents. The skin,
hardened into a pouch. The pouch, which was once a girl, holds

nothing but the tragedy of love. The tragedy of beautiful
breaths taken and swallowed and sung.

Oliver de la Paz is the author of three books of poetry, most recently Requiem for the Orchard. He is the co-editor of A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poetry. He teaches at Western Washington University.