Commonplace
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www.common-place.org · vol. 12 · no. 2 · January 2012
Scientific Americans
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Poetic Research Department

Statement of Poetic Research


Jon Thompson
Poems from Strange Country

The carte of all the coaſt of Virginia


Engraving by Theodor De Bry after John White's drawings, 1590.
Courtesy of the Digital Collections, University Libraries, University of North Carolina.

To appease Fancy
I drew mythic beasts wallowing
In indulgent waters
But here everything is a myth alive,

The light that falls, Heavenly declaration,
Makes sweet earth Sovereign
& like the Picts of old
The people draw pictures on themselves

Ashamed not of nakedness—
Mapped from the eye of God
I meant to show it, the bow-shaped archipelago
Wokokan Croatoan, Paguiwac & Hatorask

Second-hand signs for tongues
Gone the way of runes—
That world, a book of wonder
Book of fright—

A Weroan or great Lorde of Virginia


Engraving by Theodor De Bry after John White's drawings, 1590.
Courtesy of the Digital Collections, University Libraries, University of North Carolina.

Absolute symmetry of the body,
as "front" & "back."
All the beauty of it.

No fact
Separate from the myth.
The birdfeather-plumed face

Half hides itself
In studying last year's hunt
Unfolding on the plain below—

All the aiming & pursuing
Relives the past
Next to the river's unpassing.

In the distance
The hunt is renewed.
All the hunters have drawn

Their bows
& the stag
Is leaping into the stag-sized trees

A cheiff Lorde of Roanoac


Engraving by Theodor De Bry after John White's drawings, 1590.
Courtesy of the Digital Collections, University Libraries, University of North Carolina.

He has a natural dignity
& grace & needs nothing
To prove himself.

Adept at reading signs,
They need not our script.
This is a story

Of disappearance
Unaccompanied
By wonder.

What a wandering
In the black back-lit lines,
The empty white spaces.

The Marckes of Fundrye of the Chief mene of Virginia


Engraving by Theodor De Bry after John White's drawings, 1590.
Courtesy of the Digital Collections, University Libraries, University of North Carolina.

They write marks on their backs
Signs by which they make
Known whose subjects they are
Alphabets made of arrows

With strange crossings—
The letters they carved into trees—
I willed them that if they happened
To be distressed they should carve

A cross over the letters
Every sign is a stranger now
No language have I left to speak
Of trees & men-bearing signs



 


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