pokeberries drove him mad,
some said. he was accustomed to
thinking abstract thoughts, talking
about them in an abstract way,
but when the bomb fell
and everyone went underground
and then came up again,
he had to fend for himself
in some pretty uncomfortable ways.
pretty concrete. pretty desperate.
then this one old topsider who
never went down at all but just
holed up in the most inhospitable
mountain country there is
and somehow made it, he told
our man about making poke ink
and how it wouldn’t deteriorate.
from then on it was all juice
and mash and sieves and boiling.
he stopped eating and sleeping
regular hours. started looking
poorly, had that crazy gleam
people used to get in their eyes
right before they got baptized
or played a solo on a lit stage.
had it all the time. some people
said it was just his time. and some
said it was the flu – everyone’s
immune systems were pretty awful.
but i’m the one that found the body.
and i’m the one who read the words
he wrote all over himself (they didn’t
make any sense, only a few were
even English). and i say he died
because he wanted it too much:
that old life. the one with dreams
and progress, learning handed down.
the one, in other words, that’s
not ever coming back.


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