Two Poems by Mark B. Hamilton

Unwell

Thick sheets of ice have moved the dark.
I am unwell from yesterday’s ducking.
J. Fields did return, after some risk,
having made his way across the flowing

to report that people do favor
recent surveys by Captain Mackay
of those granted lands told to comprise
a beautiful and bountiful country.

Yet I remain unwell. All day, indisposed.
McNeal and Ordway were lost all night,
the Missouri impassable in thick slabs
like shuffling like cards — a forceful sight.

My servant has kept the fire so hot
the chimney wattle has caught aflame.
I step out to take a meridian altitude
while men pour water into the frame.

Rivers continue to rise. N. Pryor
arrives from Cahokia with letters.
Our Boat, afloat again, in perfect order.
Although I slept but little, I feel better.

With evening rains, all is dry and tight.
Huddling, we cook the rabbits at mess,
the Mississippi still stoppered with ice
but the warming stew a good success.


Still Very Unwell

Today is warm, but I am unwell this mile.
In cold and frost on Mister Hays’ horse,
I have accompanied the gentlemen for awhile
but now return early as I am feeling worse.

The thaw was fair, but winds have increased.
I take doses of medicine, yet remain sick all day.
To Leakens, a thief, who must be discharged
from our Party, I give a small correction of pay.

The wilding wings of fowl pass briefly overhead,
yet I remain unwell. Dubois River is fastly rising,
sufficiently so the Boat leaves its pries, in stead
taken up creek, all though the day is warming.

A map of lines must inhabit those feathery brains.
York attends and keeps the fire, and Mr. Hanley
sends butter and milk in a wagon of Mr. Koehn’s
whose wife asks if she might better comfort me.

Those gliding wings must be the soul. I am sick.
Captain Lewis sends out Shields for walnut bark.
Winser kills a badger. The ice is 11 inches thick.
The rising river has washed away my water mark.

The whistling swans in silence pass like a dream.
The walnut pills do take effect, and I feel better.
A lost Maumee canoe drifts alone downstream,
and news is delivered from Mr. Hay by messenger.

Two invitations have arrived for Balls at St. Louis.
The Missouri River is spewing a slushy reef
in muddy floes to form its half frozen surface.
The geese and swans do gather in a marshy sheaf.


“Unwell” and “Still Very Unwell” are history-based poems, adapted from “Wintering at Camp Dubois,” Vol. 2, The Journals of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, Gary E. Moulton, editor. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1986.




Mark B. Hamilton considers himself an environmental neo-structuralist, working in forms to transform content, adapting from both the Eastern and Western traditions. His new eco-poetry volume, OYO, The Beautiful River: an environmental narrative in two parts (Shanti Arts, 2020), explores the reciprocity between self, culture, history, and the contemporary environment of the polluted Ohio River. Recent work has appeared in Weber—The Contemporary West, North Dakota Quarterly, Copperfield Quarterly Review, Third Wednesday, and Naugatuck River Review, as well as abroad in Oxford Poetry, and Stand Magazine, UK. You can find him at: www.MarkBHamilton.WordPress.com

“Potatoes, Brandy and Porter” by Mark B. Hamilton

Last night, all the porter froze
and several bottles broke.
The men now stack them exposed,
thawing the bitter beer that folk
favor as brewed from charred malt.
Quite good with apples and salt.

Visitors arrive with a warming sky:
3 Frenchmen from Portage des Sioux
with potatoes, fowl, meal and brandy
and women who sell breads, and sew.
The scene widens, the trading slows.
Exchanges become people we know.

The Captain delivers new canisters
of powder, then walks to the hill
with sextant, giving flints to hunters,
and swings the sun’s image until
reflected it sits on the mirror’s line,
the horizon more precisely defined.

He notes our position. He calculates
in time, and draws from tables in a book
the instrument’s angle, which takes
in plenty of columns when we look,
yet do not stay when he commences.
We go outside to replenish our senses.

The sun always shows us where we are.
It rises without the need for a bobble
of fine brass knobs that measure so far
the steed only Captain Clark can hobble.
Later, from Cahokia, the express returns.
In a letter from Captain Lewis we learn

he will arrive tomorrow. There being
more letters from Kentucky, and 8 cork
bottles of wine, and files for sharpening,
the Sergeant directs us back to work.
Captain Clark has received a soft, tough
durant, a felted cloth to wrap his cough.


Historical adaptation from “Wintering at Camp Dubois,” Vol. 2, pp. 166-167, The Journals of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, edited by Gary E. Moulton, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1986. Poem first published in Weber–The Contemporary West, Spring 2020.




Mark B. Hamilton considers himself an environmental neostructuralist, working in forms to transform content, adapting from both the Eastern and Western traditions. A new eco-poetry volume, OYO, The Beautiful River: an environmental narrative in two parts, has been released by Shanti Arts, 2020. Recent poems have appeared in Weber—The Contemporary West, North Dakota Quarterly, Chrysanthemum, The Cider Press Review, and Naugatuck River Review, as well as abroad in Oxford Poetry, and Stand Magazine, UK. Please see: www.MarkBHamilton.WordPress.com