from Phantom Hour

Dementia has many causes. One is conscripted against his will; it is cause for defecting. Dementia is not always caused by the same disease. It is caused by Germans, mostly Hessian. It is confidently supposed it affects those ignorant of the English language generally spoken in America. Dementias can be classified by the character of the Americans. To make this fancied security in a variety of ways part of the brain is affected. The most incredible stories concerning the Americans get worse with time: progressive dementias are freely circulated about the Hessians. Dementias get worse with the British. The British entirely overlooked that numbers of the American citizens were Germans and German descendants, still bearing German names, possessed of German characteristics, and speaking the German language. Dementia is caused by the destruction of brain cells. Although the exact cause isn’t known, two types of defection (neuron damage) are common in Hessians. These include plaques and tangles. They desert and flee to the German settlements to be delivered from the dangers and hardships of a war in which they have no interest. They forget their war. This usually progresses slowly, over seven to 10 years, causing a gradual decline in cognitive abilities. In these settlements, the identity of the Hessian deserters soon becomes lost to the British. They forget their soldiers. Eventually, the affected part of the brain isn’t able to work. The soldier’s functions, including those involving memory, movement, language, judgment, behavior and abstract thinking are limited. These American-Germans are both civilized and Christianized, contrary to the slanderous tales circulated by the British leaders. The symptoms of this dementia are similar, but its unique features often include fluctuations in confusion and clear thinking (lucidity), visual hallucinations, tremor and rigidity. These people will often have a condition called REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) that involves acting out dreams, including thrashing or kicking during sleep. Bounty hunters still come for deserters in dreams. They discover that land is cheap and labor scarce, and that better prospects are before them in America, then they could ever hope to find on their return to Germany after the war. They start farms and churches. They start families. They forget who their families are but they are on farms and in churches. Dementia is the desertion of the mind. This is what happens. This is crossing the river at Lexington. Symptoms begin suddenly and then progress. This is war.

 
James Meetze is the author of Dayglo, winner of the 2010 Sawtooth Poetry Prize and published by Ahsahta Press, and I Have Designed This For You. He is editor, with Simon Pettet, of Other Flowers: Uncollected Poems by James Schuyler. A new chapbook, Dark Art I-XII, was published in December.

4