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 being too large to know 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,

sweeps out the cliffs and frozen forests,

smoothing its glacial mass underfloor,

like spacetime expanding into nothing.

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 only for Asian carp.


Now everything announces its age to me,

everything tells me how old it is,

and everything is older than I imagined,

yet all of it seems to be a part of me,

a reason for my reason.

Smooth lowlands mythologically old.

The Great Black Swamp where Odawa

waded with fur bales, and supply lanes

of Colonel Findlay that were the first roads.

The steam Traction Ditcher of James Hill,

Iron Grand-Dad-of-Them-All tilling hectares.

The richness of death in the earth

that gave birth to the Ohio Company,

then Marathon Oil in the thirties—

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.


In the end I fear I’ve become a story,

one among many who are meant when people say

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

How much of that was my fault, and how much

the fault of all those things come before me?

Surely fate is a description of choices

like the trend line, the line of best fit,

through the indefinite, scattered plot.

And what of those coordinates ages hence?

What advantages, what injuries, what

coincidences have I performed unknowingly?

It was me who told them what freedom was:

a tank full of gas, stars and stripes stapled to the awning;

and it was me those things were meant for:

Hill’s tractor, Wilson’s pandering nod,

the whole damned Wisconsin Glaciation.

If I could find them, those dark faces

hurled into the future and obscured by it,

who see me yet are unknown to me,

O 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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