Poem-a-Day - "The Mud Sermon" by Ishion Hutchinson

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December 20, 2021 

The Mud Sermon

Ishion Hutchinson

They shovelled the long trenches day and night.

Frostbitten mud. Shellshock mud. Dungheap mud. Imperial mud.
Venereal mud. Malaria mud. Hun bait mud. Mating mud.
1655 mud: white flashes of sharks. Golgotha mud. Chilblain mud.
Caliban mud. Cannibal mud. Ha ha ha mud. Amnesia mud.
Drapetomania mud. Lice mud. Pyrexia mud. Exposure mud. Aphasia mud.
No-man’s-land’s-Everyman’s mud. And the smoking flax mud.
Dysentery mud. Septic sore mud. Hog pen mud. Nephritis mud.
Constipated mud. Faith mud. Sandfly fever mud. Rat mud.
Sheol mud. Ir-ha-cheres mud. Ague mud. Asquith mud. Parade mud.
Scabies mud. Mumps mud. Memra mud. Pneumonia mud.
Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin mud. Civil war mud.
And darkness and worms will be their dwelling-place mud.
Yaws mud. Gog mud. Magog mud. God mud.
Canaan the unseen, as promised, saw mud.

They resurrected new counter-kingdoms,
by the arbitrament of the sword mud. 

Copyright © 2021 by Ishion Hutchinson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 20, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

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“The poem is a baffled commemoration of the West Indian soldiers who served with the British Army in the First World War. They did as cannon fodder, and a hundred years after the end of the war, a legacy of silence (in public memorial, in literature) continues to weigh heavily on their experience. Out of that silence, out of outrage, and a shock of inarticulacy, the poem tries to create a ceremony of remembrance and unforgetting.”
Ishion Hutchinson

Ishion Hutchinson is the author of two collections of poetry: House of Lords and Commons (Macmillan, 2016) and Far District (Peepal Tree Press, 2010). The recipient of awards and fellowships from the National Book Critics Circle and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, he directs the graduate creative writing program at Cornell University.
House of Lords and Commons
(Macmillan, 2016)

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Thanks to Ilya Kaminsky, author of Deaf Republic (Graywolf Press, 2019), who curated Poem-a-Day for this month’s weekdays. Read a Q&A about Kaminsky’s curatorial approach and find out more about our guest editors for the year
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