Marathon Petroleum

“…one after another, and they produced their multitudinous offspring in this earth.”


There’s no metaphor for the sharp flatness

of the till plains of Findlay Ohio,

but imagine a vast carapace of ice,

some primordial, Pleistocene earth-god,

its bulk too large to experience time,

slumbering like a mountain for eons,

suddenly—not our suddenly, but its—

struck dead by the sum of infinitely

smaller motions of light and gravity.

How it slouches languorously to its core

and sweeps out the cliffs and frozen forests

and melts its mass deep, deeper underfloor,

becoming its own bed of glacial drift.

There’s a sense of this immense sinking,

walking the moraine of the reservoir,

of lands so low they could not raise again.

Its warm blood flows daily down the Blanchard

into the green, slow-moving Maumee.


For thirty years I was senior PLC specialist

for Marathon Petroleum, now giving it up

to spend my days plying muddy banks

of Blanchard for walleye and catfish,

though more and more of late only for Asian carp.

Now, it seems, everything announces its age to me,

antediluvian tectonics, this home

that was once the Great Black Swamp

where Ojibwa and Odawa waded with fur,

everything tells me how old it is,

and everything is older than I imagined,

yet it all seems to be a part of me,

a reason for my reason,

the smooth lowlands mythologically old,

the black swamp, and Colonel James Findlay

laying his supply lane through the Black Swamp,

or the steam Traction Ditcher of James Hill,

Iron Grand-Dad-of-Them-All tilling the soil,

or the richness of death in the earth

giving birth to first the Ohio Company,

then, in the 30’s, Marathon Oil—

now, that is, Petroleum, a corporate spin-off,

the father of a father, like cells dividing,

like all these printed polyester flags

raised victoriously over every similar porch.

Wilson called it Flag City, USA.

Even of that I do partly bear the torch.

Now, in the end, I fear I’ve become a story,

one among many who are meant when people mean

“A town like Findlay is a great place to live.”

How much of this was my fault, and how much

the fault of all those things come before me?

Surely fate is the description of choices,

an argument of mathematical function

directing the scattered plot, indefinite

but surely as gods a matter of principle,

plotting the trend line, the line of best fit.

And what of those coordinates a hundred years hence?

What advantages, what injuries, what

coincidences have I performed unknowingly?

It was I who told them what freedom was:

a tank full of gas, American handkerchief

stapled to the awning; and

it was me those things were meant for,

Hill’s tractor, and Wilson’s pandering nod,

the whole damned Wisconsin Glaciation.

If I could find them, those faces

hurled into the future and obscured by it,

who see me yet are unknown to me,

Oh how piacular would I become,

how justly would I debase myself now,

to tell them I was not what time had undone.

R. Charboneau

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