Bog Body Murmurs
In the encyclopedia of ends we are named for the bog, melting and churning, that exhumes us. Our stories within the tarn are tale-less. We are the many lesses— breathless, ceaseless, eyeless, fruitless, garbless, merciless, noiseless, ribless, shadowless, useless. Our only study is the wet. Only loss is the sun’s grope overhead. We become gourds of gurgled mud with murmurs that only nudge the insides of moors. When we rise, will they say corpse or say body? It matters not. Our spade-cut skin never heals, cadavers being the braille of death.
Spring death came despite the rain, the mire, the manic bursting. It marked my taint in the dirt. Met full with my aloneness, I began a certain solace— only the chore and sadness in breathing.
They had my skin, these snails, mottled, etched in brown scars. As did the bloodworms slick with this oil-dark world inching for seed. And the raspberry plant roots were whiskered like an old chin. We almost looked the same underground— clay made, soft spread. My face would always be twenty, though, if it had survived.
My head stubbled as plucked duck skin, or shaved adulteress. Grist in an ancient mill that hides all the silage of shameful acts. Truth will rise in this forbidden bog, its red heather killing the shell-paved streamlets and quiet pools fringed with rushes where we met. Rise from the place beneath rocks and branches used to hold my body down. They will note my thumb obscenely placed between index and middle fingers. My pornographic posture. I will become numbered bones, cataloged muscle webbings, and my missing gender satchel found. There will be an accounting.
The Wind Concurs
I have known the bogs as holy places, felt the many dead, their names never recorded on vellum. The disappeared make no sound, only whispered in the weeds and grass. Leaf flesh, soil flesh, singing over the bones, it forms a strange keening across this barren space. All trembles at the elongated muscle of my devotion. Vast, yielding, and gray: this is the best place to bow in lingered grief.
Catherine Moore is the author of three chapbooks including the forthcoming Wetlands (Dancing Girl Press, 2016). Her poetry appears in Southampton Review, Cider Press Review, Blue Fifth Review, Caesura, Still: the Journal, concīs, and in various anthologies. A Walker Percy fellow, she won the Southeast Review’s 2014 Poetry Prize and she’s a recipient of a Nashville MetroArts grant. Catherine earned a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Tampa and teaches at a community college. She’s tweetable @CatPoetic.
These poems come from Moore’s manuscript Borrowings Of The Shan Van Vocht. Here is the poet’s artistic statement on these “bog body” poems:
On a visit to Dublin last fall I saw the Bog Body exhibit at their National Museum and was intrigued by the details still intact— like finger nails and prints. A Bog Body is a human cadaver that has been naturally mummified by the pressure and chemical makeup in a peat bog. These poems are from a series of prose poems narrated by Bog Bodies and natural elements that I represent in voice. The Shan Van Vocht is the Gaelic phrase for the land goddess and translates as Poor Old Woman. In modern druid terms, it’s similar to Mother Nature. Forensics can tell us many things about the nature of death for bodies recovered from the bogs, but we don’t really know the story of these nameless souls. I have attempted to give them one. As an additional note, Bog Poems by Seamus Heaney is a collection I admire and from which I acknowledge similarities in these borrowed phrases—study was the wet, grist to an ancient mill, forceps baby, strange fruit.