Erased from memory

Over the summer, Geist held an “erasure poem” contest, in which you had to take an excerpt from Roughing In the Bush: Or, Forest Life in Canada and, just by erasing individual characters, come up with a poem. I wasn’t going to enter — I like Geist, but, having entered other of their contests in the past, I wasn’t exactly aching to send them more money, even with a subscription renewal thrown in. And I’m not exactly a world-class poet. But I thought it was an interesting challenge, and before I knew it I had something I rather liked.

I didn’t win. But that’s okay. Like I said, I like Geist. And I probably won’t be entering their Postcard Story Contest this year — I understand the whys of the new “make your own postcard” rule, but I can’t say it appeals — so they can have this entry fee instead.

Anyway, like I said, I liked what I wrote…or, rather, what was left after I erased. And since I didn’t make the short list, I’ve got no reason not to post my poem here:

a week passed
the dark stranger and my husband
the same horror
attracted their attention and
they were delighted

I almost screamed
then followed intently
their dark eyes fixed upon the map

what strange hex of names
every lake and river on the paper
held hard my sorry eyes

I was consumed by a curious word
which had been given — a strange gift
to a glade fenced on three-sides

a moving snake
or a hideous image of god
conceived by the most distorted imagination

claws that formed hands
a face strange and awful
a wood of serpentine form

my name

I thought to demand an explanation
longed to flee

in the east, far over the great lake
there were bad prayers made of wood
and this was one of them

they said
that hideous thing
they had made with their own hands
were highly amused
and passed the word from one to the other
in spite or contempt

I was sorry to perceive this circus in their eyes

they regarded it with mysterious awe
for several days
then left vexed and annoyed
by the height of my curiosity