“At the Campus Martius Museum of the Old Northwest in Marietta, I Think About All the Other Parts of Ohio I’ve Neglected” by Mark Allen Jenkins

Reading by the author

A city I waited thirty-seven years to revisit. My historic, infant self first visited when my parents wanted to get out of our house, a straight drive east from I-70 to I-77 in Cambridge, stopping just
before crossing the Ohio into West Virginia.

Old Ohio city, surrounded by forest and native Ohioans, large blocks still intact, I didn’t know why I hadn’t returned sooner. I spent my childhood pining to leave, yet scouted out state parks, historical sites, physical educations in their own way, unbound by books, classrooms, and classmates. With the rest of Troop 118, I marched across Blannherhasset Island poorly loaded backpack threatened, with its off-center tent, to sideline me like the loser of the Burr-Hamilton Duel.

Today, my father drove us to Marietta, itself a museum to the Ohio river and the state, but like most history, it’s a dehydrated Museum sentence or paragraph.

[When would either of us come back to Marietta?]

Inside the Old Northwest Territory Museum, Campus Martius, flat stereotypes be damned, an Ohio of the imagination, this is the frontier, the west, white man’s place west of the Appalachians. This building, antique everything: expected muskets, swords, tableware, chains to measure what a plaque outside claims in latin “he has planted one
better than one fallen,” or at least that’s what another plaque tells me.

Only a steamboat could love the Ohio River Museum,
appreciate small differences between paddle boat sketches and photos of Queen City and Guiding Star somewhere a boiler exploded. These dangers quaint, distant, when only a red tea kettle and an iron are the two steam-powered items in my apartment,

Outside, a restored steam paddle towboat is the real river museum, it bobs a few times before sinking, lost to attention. 

Originally from the hilly corner of Ohio, Mark Allen Jenkins’s poetry has appeared in Gargoyle, minnesota review, South Dakota Review, Every River on Earth: Writing from Appalachian Ohio, and Still: The Journal. He completed a Ph.D. in humanities from the University of Texas at Dallas and currently teaches in Houston.

Image: “Butt” by Charles J. March III

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