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Thursday, July 04, 2013


by Tricia Knoll

“Mummies are a non-renewable resource” - the curator of the Mummies of the World exhibit in Portland, Oregon. Source: The Oregonian.

In Burlington, around Ethan Allen’s grave,
metal rifles fence him in side by side with plaques
honoring the Green Mountain boys.

But all is not well there in that boneyard.
Stern Vermont winters crack
the stones severing moth
from -er, a caretaker stacks
white marble pieces like poker chips.
In one photo, my shadow
looms at the top of the heap.

Or drape the caskets of the war dead
in flags, honor them off the planes
to the waiting hands of family,
palms cooled on steel. The rolls
of the dead renew themselves
in war, in genocide.

We say rest in peace
as if we mean it
and fight over the bones
the tribal first people
claim as Kennewick man.
Carry the eagle feather
where they walked.
There is no guaranteed right
to bury our dead.

Or, become an amateur
view Germany’s collection
of preserved mummies collected
from all over the world
lost during World War II
but now on loan
to museums near you.
They are old, dried out,
they are the dead.
That woman who holds
two baby teeth, one in the palm
of each wrapped hand --

ask if she is at peace.

Tricia Knoll is a Portland, Oregon poet whose poems have appeared in a variety of journals. She is neither anti-science or anti-education -- "but if these remains belonged to North American first people, she says, I do not believe they could be displayed in this way in this country."