Excise History

Mack Gregg


For Augustine


You know the place. Here, a farmer’s tiller

Once scattered spare bones to the wind

And you came after school to reinter them,

Making your best guess. This is the art:


To remedy neglect, piece the remains.

You call etymology the study of this

Disorder in which we are arranged.

Where do words come from is how we ask


Where do we come from. They say

We come from pesticides, like the frogs

Of many sexes. We grew up beside

The grounds of the first asylum


To perform a frontal lobotomy:

Northern State Hospital in Sedro Wooley

(Population 11,000), closed

In the 80’s due to funding cuts.


Here was a self-sustaining system

With gardens, dairy, and abattoir

Where patients raised, slaughtered, and butchered

Livestock. The scalpel aimed to remove


The prefrontal cortex, home to both

Memory and language, cut away

The story it didn’t want told.  

You used to lie to your friends, telling them


You were enrolled in Advanced Underwater

Welding when really, you were in my acting class.

As a child, you tunneled the dark catacombs

Under the asylum where it was your dad’s job


To keep the labyrinths from flooding.

As you played in the courtyard, once, a rock, hurled

From a vacant window, sailed by your head

Nearly making contact.


We laid out our Ouija board

Beside the unmarked graves. We spoke

With a spirit who kept repeating

Numbers. We asked his name. He said, no. 




Mack Gregg is a writer, teacher, and 19th-Century literary historian living on Cahuilla land, near various marked and unmarked cemeteries. Their poetry has found its way into Witch Craft Magazine, Stone of Madness Press, b l u s h, Hot Pink Magazine, Bureau of Complaint, and other locales.