Et in Arcadia Ego

Hard to make out a particular figure: the faces pressed to the portholes, seeds stowed in oily cloth, or the hold altering under a swaying lamp. The actual vessel and …

Illustration by Ashley MacKenzie
Illustration by Ashley MacKenzie

Hard to make out a particular figure: the faces
pressed to the portholes, seeds stowed in oily
cloth, or the hold altering under a swaying lamp.

The actual vessel and the metamorphic bridge of
a husband and wife: a ladder across the ocean, two
horses over land, the first stake as a crude house

coalesces from the wood. And we to thy service
build our homes on the acres, and as one generation
begins to stabilize the mirage with timber and moss,

the I must or else the wintry land will have them
relaxes its grip on the family: barns tatter, rust
builds in the shed, boulders marking fields slip

back asleep as trains bear the children away to
lift toil from the bones of the hand like a scythe
and try to balance it against a desk in their heads.

Some take podiums, some preach, one will invest in
machinery after a bullet whizzing through a tent turned
hair white as he stitched things back inside men.

Still others will undergo the loss of their minds
as if the same sheer will that seeded the stolen land
planted also a chaos that came boiling up like oil

or else they drifted through towns like glaciers, calved
in thin blue lunacy to commune with something terribly
wide. So our heads may have grown thick with others’

reflexes and to flinch under shadows in the ceiling might be
a house born burning in the child’s mind. O distant country
perpetual, fields, fields of rye—even in Arcadia, there am I.

This appeared in the May 2015 issue.

Chad Campbell
Chad Campbell published his debut collection, Laws & Locks, in April 2015.
Ashley Mackenzie
Ashley Mackenzie (ashmackenzie.com) counts the New York Times, Scientific American, and The New Republic among her clients.

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