H I S T O R Y   O F   T H E   D I V I D I N G   L I N E

John Horváth, Jr.

Within the house and bedroom given over
to his birth, without Good Book in order
to appoint his destiny, they named him
"Dismal" after that swamp in some old
and tattered history text kept around
long after grandmere's days in school;
and, it felt so right to name a son for
something ancient, primal on the earth
from which he'd come and never thought
it cruel to name him on that fingered
word from a new and scientific book;
the name seemed good and strong, a name
that called up visions of divisions
grown betwixt them during life-- from
boy and girl to lover and beloved, then
man and wife; now, the mother-father
they'd become, and someday none too soon
the grand and granny they would be.
They called him "Diz" half to be short
and cute and half to hide the fact that
swamp's a deep and dark and deadly place
that beckons those who've nowhere else
to go; it's where men have gone and left
no trace; it swallows up both flesh and
bone -- it swallows up the very soul.
It's all about sweet uncontrolled that
life can be, and sour death that sets
us free-- a swamp's a place of liberty.
It holds its ground; it feeds its own;
it is a thing that's made for fate's
good exercise as was their son, the boy,
and that kind of man he would become.
He'd measure up; he'd make a place his
home then settle down to never roam;
complete as only swamps can be, this
Dismal lad was something of a natural
unconquerable, both strong and free,
the source of menace and grand myth
depending on how you'd come to see
their only son, a boy, the kind of man
he surely had become. But he had set
his mind on big city life, the baubles
of a crowded place, to sin at scientific
chance -- He gambled and he whored with
much delight and much disgrace; he made
his Dismal name mean only what it meant.
He lured them in then trapped them there.
He dragged them down. Fed on his own.
Devoured hide and hair and bone, but
kept unto himself and broadcast treachery;
a pirate's haven was his scientific soul.

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Swagazine 9
Winter 2001

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