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The Infernal Regions

Relax. No more the thinness of ceremony.

Largemouth bass at the bottom of Kapowsin Lake

grow still as his thoughts. No swish and silt,

no father and flail. And once perfectly still, they grow

even stiller. Nothing’s wasted, says the Lord of the Underworld.

Stillness is economy, and economy exchange.

While he could still speak, my father asked,

“How should I pray for you?”

The curled buds of the bracken fern form

a forest of question marks.


The backhoe operator shuts it down, raises two fingers

towards me and walks off in the rain. Dad’s settled

in for the ride, easy now in his pressed suit

and polished shoes. Heavy drops dimple

the freshly turned dirt. Rainbows of oil in the puddles.

What’s left is centuries of silence. Such perfect

repose. And potato salad back at the potluck.


Should we look for Orpheus among the living?

Should we look for Orpheus among the dead?

Father of riches. Seed the soil, smelt the ore.

We’ve put on our workboots. We’ve crossed into

mythology, crossed over. In the underworld,

grief is poor currency. Beneath the camus prairies,

the second-growth Douglas fir and three bodies

of water, an Atlas of darkness shoulders a

weightless world of light. In the underworld, grief is

the only currency, and music after prayers.

Said Archimedes, “With a long-enough lever

and a place to stand, I will move the earth.”

from Poetry Northwest 11.2 Winter & Spring 2017More by Aaron Baker from the library

Copyright © Aaron Baker
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

Published in Aaron Baker Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.