A POEM CONTAINING THE FINAL, FROSTY END OF MY ALREADY NEEDLESSLY PROTRACTED LIFE, IN A SNOWY WOOD, AS I WANDER DRUNKENLY HOME FROM A BAR
“Here lies Joseph Caruth, a 45-year-old cook in a lumber camp who got drunk one cold October night in 1902 and wandered into the woods, where he passed out and froze to death.”
— John Carlisle, Detroit Free Press, “Forgotten mass grave in the U.P. finally gets recognition”
The sidewalk is lonely—I step twice to a section,
Though they vary and vary—and the wind is lonely.
Over half a frozen squirrel I drift this thought:
What has spilled me?
The ice is lonely, oh the snow!
I have crept along to four and twenty tonight.
The railroad is sad. I tread every tie
Though my legs hate the constriction, though
The urge to sprint inflates my bundled chest.
But here, a blue jay’s severed wing,
I kick it, and it scrapes sadly along.
He must have been hit by the train.
I honor his passing with this utterance:
The world has come unhinged.
I have grown and given nothing of myself at all,
Sought nothing, done ever so little.
I keep to myself, and sleep ever so much.
Bunny bunny bunny bunny rabbit.
Your ears are pretty, and your eyes are large.
I wish that I were you, because you seem
So happy when you hop along so fast.
But I certainly am no one else tonight,
And I am full of strange compulsions:
Human being being being being.
I feel the infinite desire to walk…
so I shall go into the forest wide
And importune the third of three birds,
Who will tell me where I must go next.
O these old snowclad, leafless lonelies—
O this primeval whistle of the wind—
Ain’t these the reapings of eternity!
I lean into the hollow of an oak,
And whisper, as if to leave something I had held in my mouth:
A great black beard, to tinkle, rimed and icicled.
Then I run! I run, and leap!
And breathe hard, laughing as I fly along,
Forcing the ice wind into my cheeks.
I shall gather all wind to my flesh,
And blast the cities to dust with a breath—
I leap, and trip over a buried, broken tree.
The snow goes in my coat and mouth.
Oh I have drunk up loneliness tonight,
But I shall mingle with it in my guts
What moonlight I may glean from off the snow.
I think I won’t come back, it feels so good to go, and go!
Oh this thin birch! I grip it with a hand and spin about,
The tilted world feels so familiar, so good and free.
They say that if you spin around a birch some thirteen times
Like this and then merely let go, you’ll disappear, but where,
Nobody knows, as no one has come back, but here I go:
Or was that fourteen that I spun? Or fifteen? Or another—
But let me try again. Some thirteen times, the magic then—
Well. Let me lie here, anyway;
I don’t feel so good after that.
I am tired, and very drunk,
So let me lie, and soon I’ll rise,
And try again, perhaps, or not,
Perhaps I will just go home.
Charlie Dunn lived in Ypsilanti, and never succeeded in publishing his work. His father and friends are doing their best to get his writing into publication. For now, his works can be found on Amazon under the title The Book of Charlie: a friend’s posthumous publication.