I sing the body selected for its utility;
today, I sing the body of Paul Bunyan.
No one knows the truth about
Paul Bunyan, secret hero
of the self-made mythos;
born as vague folktale,
dim origin story explaining nothing;
originally only seven feet tall
then grown by design to enormous size
as slim basis for an advertising myth;
rugged, near deity, holy logger,
ravenous for trees and food, good-natured
giant, honor bound to his azure companion
Babe the castrated behemoth;
Paul Bunyan is having none of it anymore.
In this long-ago opened
there’s nowhere to be
huge beyond simple explanation.
In this wide stretched
mythos of exceptionalism
there’s no room for his real story
as it should be told.
Paul Bunyan puts down the axe,
releases Babe to wander, sits down,
wipes his face on his shirt
done. I’m done.
I didn’t make myself into this,
I did not write myself this large
and never did I mean to be so alone.
There were camps, you know,
There were teams and squads and
communal effort and internal struggle.
There were many of us
but they chose me. They made me into a story
to sell lumber, paper towels, a useful tale
of Big Whiteness conquering,
and now I don’t recall who I really was.
So I’m done. I’m done.
I cede the flannel to whoever
their next lonely self-made man might be;
I cede the flannel
to you, Kurt Cobain, secret hero
of all my logging, all my
clear cutting, all my
footprint lakes and axe-drag
canyons. I leave it to you,
another young man alone,
your being soaked through
with myth and image
as was mine.
Drag your axe
through the world and leave
a deep, wide scar.
This will kill you
but they will all soon enough love
what they think you were.
I cannot tell you it will be worth it
even if you lose yourself in it.
That’s just how things get done
these days. That’s just how
the place runs. It needs
its hardworking lost men.
It needs them to be alone
when they vanish