The Frank Olson Legacy Project

Three poems from the book:

Full Moon Boat

by Fred Marchant


(Published by Graywolf Press in October, 2000. Used with permission of the author.)


“Windows” and “The Collage House” also appeared in the Fall 2000 issue of Harvard Review.



by Fred Marchant

This is the window of the leapt,
oldest of all.
The dream of flight,
a quiver of desire at the edge,
the heart like a match struck.

And this, the window of the fallen,
easiest to open.
The embarrassment
of accident, a wedding ring
down the dark, mistaken drain.

This is the window of the pushed,
The didn’t-know-what-hit-him
as he dropped,
the feathery nudge of the nation,
its high court of necessity.

And this, the window of the overheard,
the aftermath in the telephone:
“Well, he's gone,”
says one end of the wire to the other,
which replies, “That's too bad.”


The Collage House

by Fred Marchant

for Eric Olson

I crawled on my knees and glued magazine
photos to a white construction paper.
You said it was controlled regression, essence
of all therapy. I must have felt like a child—
I placed an image of a newborn entering
the world at the center of my collage.

I surrounded him with various breasts,
circled them with scenes of war: the wounded
riding on armor, Hiroshima scenes, flimsies
of my discharge papers, a torn photo
of the street execution in Sai Gon. The bland
indifference of one man, the grimace of the other.

You said mine was a collage of remarkable reason.
I said it looked like an asteroid belt.
You'd just finished reading a theorist on the floating
signifier and said each image was a particle
which would inevitably transform the other.
I said I sure hoped so. I still do.

Now, your father's coffin-liner hangs swaying
off the end of a backhoe, the body soon
to be uncased, and turned over
to the stainless steel tray of autopsy.
The story to be given to the red light
of the documentary camera. A pathologist

stands in a lab coat and says he's “pretty sure”
the death they said was suicide in 1953
was neither a jump nor a fall.

You cannot help but wonder who hit him,
who muscled him up to a sill high in the Statler,
and gave him to the icy, whistling air.

The interviewer wants to know
if your effort to find out what had happened
was worth what it had cost you.
I see you standing at the rim of an enormous
canyon, the layers of earth lit up with sunlight.
A punishing trail leads to the bottom.

If there is a spirit in this place,
it calls you down to a river that runs
beneath all the lies. If only it could tell you
what it knows, if only there were a shoreline
where you could kneel and look deeply
into the images that river might bring you,

but there is no Collage House waiting—
no scissors, no paste, no mystery of the life
of the mind, no place for the story
the exhumed body will tell,
only a wilderness of ground glass and lye,
and the long struggle not to swallow it.

The Phoenix Program

by Fred Marchant

Afterwards, the children stood outside
the house of their birth
to witness how it too had to be punished.

When they came of age, they fled to the capital,
lost themselves in the study of history and great works of art,
graduated in swirling carmine robes.

Burdened with a knowledge that murderers
name their deeds after winged deities,
they dream for awhile of claws on the back,

but later they become certain there was
nothing they could have done.
And they are not alone.

It is like this throughout the city.
On each corner you can see them—
leaning as if the vanishing point on their horizon

were other than ours.
They speak quietly only to one another.
They play no instruments, and do not sing.