The Frank Olson Legacy Project

 

Gravesite service
for the reinterment
of the physical remains of
Frank R. Olson

 

 



Mt. Olivet Cemetery
Frederick, Maryland
Ginger Memmott, Pastor
August 9, 2002

 

 
 

 

Poem read by the poet Fred Marchant at the graveside service:

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.

 

From Full Moon Boat, published by Graywolf Press, October, 2000. “The Collage House” also appeared in the Fall 2000 issue of Harvard Review.

Other poems by Fred Marchant.

 
 

 

Biblical passages read by Pastor Ginger Memmott:

 

Then Joseph fell on his father’s face, and wept over him, and kissed him.

And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father. So the physicians embalmed Israel;

forty days were required for it, for so many are required for embalming. And the Egyptians wept for him seventy days.

And when the days of weeping for him were past, Joseph spoke to the household of Pharaoh, saying, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, speak, I pray you, in the ears of Pharaoh, saying,

My father made me swear, saying, ‘I am about to die: in my tomb which I hewed out for myself in the land of Canaan, there shall you bury me.’ Now therefore let me go up, I pray you, and bury my father; then I shall return.”

And Pharaoh ansswered, “Go up and bury your father, as he made you swear.”

So Joseph went up to bury his father; and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his household, and all the elders of the land of Egypt,

as well as all the household of Joseph, his brothers, and his father’s household; and only their children, their flocks, and their herds were left in the land of Goshen.

After he had buried his father, Joseph returned to Egypt with his brothers and all who had gone up with him to bury his father.

(Genesis 50: 1-9, 14)

 

When the Pharoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, “Lest the people repent when they see war, and return to Egypt.”

But God led the people round by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle.

And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him; for Joseph had solemnly sworn the people of Israel, saying, “God will visit you; then you must carry my bones with you from here.”

And they moved on from Succoth, and encamped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness.

And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light;

the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.

(Exodus 14: 17-22)

 

The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; it was full of bones.

And he led me round among them; and behold, there were very many upon the valley; and lo, they were very dry.

And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, thou knowest.”

Again he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.

Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.

So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone.

And as I looked, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them.

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.”

So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great host.

Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off.’

Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I will open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you home into the land of Israel.

And you shall know that I am the Lord when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people.

And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in you own land; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done it, says the Lord.”

(Ezekiel 37: 1-14)