Across The Wire

Swamp Thing Locates Himself on the Continuum Between Problem and Mystery

By Jack B. Bedell

“A problem is something which I meet, which I find completely before me, but which I can therefore lay siege to and reduce. But a mystery is something in which I am myself involved, and it can therefore only be thought of as a sphere where the distinction between what is in me and what is before me loses its meaning and initial validity.” —Gabriel Marcel

I have no doubt. That day in the lab that turned me into this, that took Linda away and forced me out into this swamp, caused many problems. But I, myself, what I am, is not a problem. I’ve read enough Marcel to know a problem is something independent of yourself you run across in this world, something that can be solved with actions or tactics, or that can be totally abandoned and left for someone else to fix. What I am, because it cannot be separated from me, is a mystery to be puzzled over, possibly even be understood given enough time and acceptance. Oil spills are a problem. Resource depletion is a problem. Even this coast disappearing daily has a remedy somewhere one of us can find. What I am, though, what I am on my way to becoming, will always glow as a reflection right on the edge of the horizon. And should I finally face it one day on my wanderings around this place, there won’t be a damn thing I can do about it. Other than recognize it for what it is.


Jack B. Bedell is Professor of English and Coordinator of Creative Writing at Southeastern Louisiana University where he also edits Louisiana Literature and directs the Louisiana Literature Press. Jack’s work has appeared in HAD, Heavy Feather, Pidgeonholes, The Shore, Moist, and other journals. He has also had work included in Best Microfiction and Best Spiritual Literature. His latest collection is Against the Woods’ Dark Trunks (Mercer University Press, 2022). He served as Louisiana Poet Laureate 2017-2019.