Glenn Freeman

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Marwencol: An Erasure

On April 8, 2000, Mark Hogancamp was attacked outside of a bar by five men who beat him nearly to death. After nine days in a coma and forty days in the hospital, Mark was discharged with brain damage that left him little memory of his previous life. Unable to afford therapy, Mark creates his own by building a 1/6-scale World War II-era Belgian town in his yard and populating it with dolls representing himself, his friends, and even his attackers. He calls that town "Marwencol," a portmanteau of the names "Mark," "Wendy" and "Colleen."


Inside my head there’s a world
of tragedy and beauty. I try
to take something plastic
and make it as real
as what’s in my head.
I feel safe in my town. I am
like the elephant in charge
of the peanuts. The hero
wears a slit chiffon dress.
There’s danger out there;
people are real out there.
Where do I want this story
to go? The bad guy gets away
and it sucks. People
are real out there. Remember
to turn off the town. I
love you. That’s how I say it.
Out loud so I can hear it. 

Advice for a Graduating College Student

I’ve taken him to the bar. The TVs around us
display the Cubs, Trump & Comey, Weather,
Trump & Comey, the Cubs. He’s amazed
to realize a Professor is someone
you can have a drink with. He’s confused
(no one told him the field he’s been studying
demands a graduate degree to get anywhere,
and god knows what that says about us).
He’s learned he wants to write. 
He wants to wander a bit and thinks
I can help him find direction. But what
I really think he wants is someone
he can feel comfortable telling that
he’s going to take acid at commencement.
He thinks it will clarify things. I say, no,
it will just make that cap & gown 
seem all the more ridiculous. I say
the names of our sins will cling
to the stones we’re tossing in the river.
What are things without their verbs? 
I say nothing lasts, not even your confusion.
At the end of the bar, a man laughs.
I love your laugh, another man says, It’s
so authentic! I say, don’t even.
Innocence is the willingness to let go
of your innocence. I’m the Jack of Clubs;
I’m the dangling participle you don’t know
what to do with. I say I’ve got advice
but it ain’t what you think.
I say you want the real thing?
If you’re going to catch fireflies,
don’t forget to put holes in the lid.

Glenn Freeman has published two collections of poetry, Keeping the Tigers Behind Us and Traveling Light, as well as a chapbook, Fading Proofs. He lives with his wife and two cats in small town Iowa where he teaches writing and American literature and watches the tomatoes grow.