I saw ankles turn as the rocker moved. I could smell the distance between cypress and cypress and swamp gum. I heard footsteps late on the floorboard. Low agonies across the hall for many years. For a while it was the little white wagon and difficult latch. New Year’s Eve was swept by dust. We never forgot the sudden bones it left. She froze bacon and a little venison. The coffee boiled over. We ate late, too late. My tooth chipped on the cold tile. He pointed and said, rats. We saw a small, firm body and buried it. From the graveyard, we heard moaning.
We were west of the large crowds. This was before the great gold rush. Women were warned to secure the corncrib. I had seventeen children. Even when available, there were scarcely few mourning loved ones. Those that made laws were hesitant to shift the tax burden. Governor Johnson had an answer, as everyone seemingly did. Blacks certainly had no monopoly on power as the invisible empire controlled city politics. I was not content to step aside but in such timber frameworks tensions did end.
We met in three conventions, far more insidious in theory. They said, these are the farmers, all poor and forlorn. Actually, we were farming in a climactic distribution of red murrain. That was Moundville then. We were on guard for potentialities that pushed yeoman out of developing. And yes, we were farmers but had good dirt of our own. We had transitioned out of cattle into the culture grain-fruit. This was far more than just a budding localism, this was the sandy bottomlands of our age.
My hiding place before it became a wooden palisade wall. Before it became his turn at wildcatting. Before it became transactions of feldspar. I watched them through the creeping fig, counting their rag money. I mixed a little orange flower rose water, but I didn’t pour it anywhere, it was just a thing I kept. I whistled all day on Good Friday but no one noticed. He was like the dusk stained fields. I heard him say, Where are you going? He walked past the currant bush and the river bluff into the water. My wedding was grey and a hawk that never left. But you can get tired of gleeful sayings.
They gave him tools, and left him to live or die. The land, they said, was fever-ridden. They were fooled, they were always fooled, but this time they had the low-hanging mists. The man was free in the swamp gas. When they saw he was thriving and healthy and fat, they came back again.
On either side, the porches were magnificent. With lips firmly compressed, she sewed our aprons. The wrist moved like a metal thread. She threw a stone at my heel. At night, the dogs circled. I was born with hair drawn smoothly around my temples. I had meant to deliver her letter. It was a wandering I intended. It was a rope but I had wished for a cutlass. I held onto the sides of the boat as it rocked. There were no angels. I still remember the sound of belt buckle. Of the wind, never.
This was the unclean place full of blood. There were baskets and baskets of hooks. We spent ten years and it amounted to 500 shekels. We took refuge in a cave, but like everything, it was unsecret. He loved us like depths. He loved us like bodies on a tree for the kites to eat. Later we wondered how light had been created. I did what my sister had done.
Past the river wood, we skin the furs. The blue smoke spoils us after the flatlands. To feel it further, we cast off our clothes. Nolan shines like an emerald body. Cold comes finally like a superior promise, and we use what we have done in this place. We warm to our memories, as our mouths once, the squirrel taste. Stars look down at us from high shelves as we sleep off the part we had forgotten. The next day it could have snowed. The next day we could have eaten pears. Then, the Uruguayan came.
Two dram shops. A few tanneries for our timber culture. No suitable lack of field hands. A host of men, particularly newspaper editors. Homes to school ourselves in vague and impractical theories. Whores, on the port’s east end. Next to the shipbuilders, adequate heat. Wax work, particularly at fairs. Magazines. A livery.
Very salty water. Several rare instances of alligators eating passersby, usually jogging, and usually women. Cases of sore tongue, anal fistula. We were exposed to beautiful amounts of artwork. Our loved ones were our significant others. As might be expected, if you had a color variant of the mineral beryl, you were as good as dead.
Doctor MacDowell ruled our town. He was a real knee-bender. That’s what people would say when rumors surfaced he wanted to apply chemistry to farming. I called him that to his face because I was brave. I was standing next to a white heifer. That gave me a little bit of clout, but still he said, Oh, don’t be sorrowful. Steadfastly, the great primary truth continued.
We couldn’t believe it when our peaches rotted in the ground. This was the day of the ox fattening. We had just had two very similar wars. When George saw the hoarfrost, he sent Laura Anne Kroft to pick up Charles M. Shelley. That was one rough buggy ride.
I was in that town. When mother died, I said, Peace to her, best of women, and hauled her off to the undertaker. James Marbury was one of us. So was Ed Schlotz. Every vote we took won by the narrowest of margins. The narrowest was our vote for readmission into America. In August we voted to add national bank notes to the circulation. Marbury raised a stink. He was our leading Unionist and no friend of J.T. Webb. Scholtz, the peacemaker that he is, tacked on amendment after amendment trying to smooth that cocksucker’s passage. To little effect, however. If my mother had been alive, that never would have happened.
It is distressingly insignificant here. As history goes, we were a rock that only after a very long time became an island. All day long we read the American Literary Critic Stanley Fish. We don’t care about him at all, we are just developing responses to his words and recording them in our daybooks. Sometimes we carry them around in our cape pockets so he doesn’t feel alone.
In a region more isolated than those struggling with cotton so we find ourselves. The area is flatter and doesn’t suit our family. We are largely ignoring our neighbors to combat western growers who wish to add cotton to our struggles. There are three reasons why living here is foolish: We are crazed to work. We are excellent cherry pickers. We have cold, hopeless nights and care for them a great deal.
Water is commonly rising. It happens very suddenly along the shoreline. Even so, we were at a little at a loss during last year’s storm surge. Some people brought out rulers and measured the size of the walls. Others called a neighboring parish, because that’s what you do when you don’t know, you call a neighbor. People held parties as a way to mask the general swelling anxiety, but reports as to their size and frequency were grossly exaggerated. It is true to say alcohol was eventually banned, and at no point were we united. In hindsight, we should have shored up the levees or at least stayed away from shipping channels. We assumed death would take longer, but in reality, it was like a few hours.
If you wish to be buried, you must leave this place. We have a single gold sarcophagus, and our lambs always come first. This isn’t science, but it’s biblical. One must preserve one’s priorities when lives contain so many years. Our life expectancy is somewhat higher than elsewhere, and we believe that’s because we’re fishers of men. Not everyone is blessed with such water. This is the funny thing about the whole thing: we were originally a merchant’s ruse! You should see how they look at us now though. Such river envy.
Come on in, we’re air-conditioned. Next to Dillingham Feed & Seed, vacancy upon vacancy. Young father with grease on your chin, you are most welcome. We have 23 French women, all with yellow fever unfortunately. There is Ahaya, the cowkeeper. There is the man that cleaned Jenkins’ ear. There is Arthur, he’s facing charges. There’s Lehora, with whom I begrudgingly share a feed trough. All our women are healthy in the most important sense. There is the town illustrator; he keeps to himself mostly. He could be a poet for once I overheard him in line at Dillingham Feed & Seed. I think he said, The cows were mine the night they followed me over the hills.
That was the night that outshone the moon. Everyone remembers it, even poor people. Even those that forgot the coming of the first steamboat. My father was stern when he said, Soon there will be a wringing of hands. I kept looking at my calendar feeling unsure. There were no howling dogs. There were no horseshoes. I felt stupid and scared to pray, so many times I had been disappointed. I went out on the sidewalk to see if anyone shared my stupid feeling. One lady holding her stomach passed in my opposite direction. I walked up to a tree I knew, the most solid thing I could think of. That’s when the thing happened that so many insist is a lie. Even to this day, after books have been written, it still remains unmentioned. Of course, philosophers may think what they want, but I was nine years old, with remarkably good eyes.
Before the Sope Creek paper mills, before the Great Locomotive Chase, before Sherman’s March to the Sea, before they stole the engine and the car behind it, before those 3,000 graves, before that blasted Anti-Defamation League, before Kilpatrick set the town ablaze, before George Winters and James Waller, before the Western and Atlantic Railroad, before the merchant of terror knew anything about horse racing, before Dr. Cox and his cocksure “water cure”, before twenty one men spent the night at Dix Fletcher’s, before tanyards became thriving businesses, before Zachary Taylor ever came from Washington City, before Jacob Parrot won the medal of honor, before twenty-two spies boarded a train in front of a hotel, before Benjamin Parks stubbed his toe on a gold nugget, before any white man ever won a land lottery, before Leo Frank was lynched at 1200 Roswell Road, we as Choctaws rather chose to suffer and be free.
Get a goat in the yard, you’ve got the whole town talking. Get one in a cane field, you’ve got nothing short of political turmoil. So says Marianne the other day talking to Avery Haddock. You know that Haddock girl’s collecting stones, putting them all over the yard in horizontal rows? Calls them her St. Augustine Tables. Whatever. When I heard Herrin killed 18 hogs at the Walker Place, I said, Oh lord, here we go. Day before yesterday he sent up some lard and spare ribs, presuming to smooth things over I guess. Marianne said he was 2 hams shy of a square deal. I told her she’d be wise to tend her goats. And she would too. That woman’s got goats everywhere, all over the place. For God sakes, she puts them in poems.
I’m going to clear this up right now. Joe Moore is and was a bald-faced liar, and how his racehorse ever got mixed up with the likes of Vernon, I’ll never know. That man went bankrupt on racehorses, the county hauled every last one off that land before he had yet to take his last breath, yet folks are still talking about that fool as if he had something to do with our legacy. A racehorse? Please. Then, I hear they’re saying we were at the store drunk. We weren’t drunk! And why in sam-hell would we name this town after a mule? That’s worse than a racehorse, by God. What kind of drunk are these folks talking about? I’d like to get into it a time or two with Paul Suthers, yet for Thelma’s sake, bit my lip. Until yesterday, that is. Man stops by the house talking all about how we had named our town after a fine American Naval Officer from Durham, North Carolina. Then he had gall to ask if he could top off his tank with my gas can. Took me about two seconds to tell that Yankee to get the hell off my property. Course Thelma wasn’t too happy about it, but that’s beside the point. It’s time a man’s honor prevents him from compliance.
It was a royal fog. They found the oars. No they didn’t. They thought they found them, and we led them to believe it. What they really found was driftwood. People delude themselves in water, as if it’s not that 40,000 acres. He came up to me after, as if I could return something alive to him. He still does.
If you have grievances, take it up with the War Department. We have no free populations. We bemoan our northern portion. We thought it simple to conclude few men deserve such vessels. It’s simple, isn’t it? Those that don’t have backs, and those that do are using them.
Watts returned home, finally. You would think he would have brought money with him. He sure brought plenty of ideas. First thing he says, Mama, I’m free as a Silverite. I said, well, honey, that ain’t that free.
We keep our doors deadbolted. We are wise as Solomon. We have 2 million pounds of deer. We live off the land, by Sherman’s estimate. Sherman has his days, and I’ll leave it at that, on account of that Christmas gift. I hate when people look at us and say, railroads, railroads, railroads. Ahem, we have a river. Not to mention the public drinking policy.
The wind caught up in the trees. We branded the smaller herds. There were thousands. He held the barbed wire in his hands. For a while, it held. For a while, they were efficiently managed. Little of us would work outside of winds. Then the wind caught fire.
Here you can exchange a pig for spirits, no questions asked. We have other problems however. Beefsteak is unlucky. Plums, an injurious indulgence. We’re plumb-out of split-bottom chairs. If only we could trade them for puncheons. Last month they declared us a milltown, and women were whipped shirtless in the streets. Now and then a housewife ventures outside to visit a stranger. What nerve, we womenfolk think. It’s like openly courting the sun in land-loving days.
An architecture without porches is threatening to invade us. What next, warm drinks, wool clothing? Luckily we are south of the Canadian winds. Luckily our river systems are capable. They have run so far to reach us, at least 300 leagues. In some not so distant day a western land could receive European industry assistance by virtue of our canal. I still don’t know if what we want is the right thing if we eventually end up losing. Or end up loving what we’ve lost. If we forget what never happened on the veranda. If we never love the flax petticoats we wore. If we forget to love iced tea.
I can keep soberer than any man in these localities. That’s what happens when you live with the clay eaters. Don’t ever breed with a water bucket near the door. She will come out wide as a Banyan tree. Currently she sleeps on a shelf wrapped in bearskin. With such a child, there is no higher ground.
We may, by the end of ten years, be living in a frame-house. For now her face turns westward. We have traveled so many places where splitting shingles was as common as whistling. Here the sound is marled, like a sap that rises. We are known by the National Weather Service, but only for ill-kept cattle. How this wounds her into wanting more than our means. Sometimes I think the luxury of a window wouldn’t be enough. Sometimes I think if I raised my bridle-hand, but I am not my father, and I am not her father. I still remember the day I came back from the years without her, and she looked at me from across the fence line, as if waiting for a true sign.
Look at that assassination house on wheels. Remember the days when danger was something stable? Now we must reckon with electric light, automobiles. Whatever happened to going out in the catalpa orchard to watch the caterpillars eat? Whatever happened to taking a cane knife to a venomous snake? I can’t stand city voters. We have enough on our hands with unionists and rioters and women’s organizations. We have enough on our hands with educated blacks. Puerto Ricans. Catholics.
LOWER PEACH TREE
In 1913, we sent out a flood of telegrams. Thank God the Red Cross paid attention. It was more than just telegraph poles and gas mains at stake. People were involved, questions of immortality raised. Suburban houses were submerged up to their eaves. And that business died some found equally sobering. People forget how hard it was to secure good insurance then. They only remember the parts they want to remember. For example, they don’t remember that we lived in our excrement, that we accepted compromises most would find abhorrent. They don’t remember the stacks and stacks of mud-ruined furniture. They don’t remember the naked man hurtling through our dining room window. Or if they do, they forget what he asked or how immediately, how sweetly he asked to be lent a pair of trousers.
I’m suffering by Flint River. We will never reach the Mohawk. I have done so many things I regret. I regret moving, I regret leaving you. We have stayed here too long, weeks and weeks, waiting for water low enough to cross. I remember the days when it was enough to sift flour for sweetcakes all afternoon. I don’t know what I was thinking about, I don’t know if I was thinking. I think I was thinking, we will soon arrive at the place where rivers are older than ridges. Perhaps I was just a cat rutting in the wind. I hate to think of it that way, Laura, but perhaps loving is a kind of ambition, glorious not for what it is but what it can never be when it is lost.
This city could go on forever. Because, in fact, there are an endless number of trees to name our avenues, and enough heroes to fill our streets. If you need to see through this benighted neighborhood, look to the lamps we have kindled on our doorsteps. Look to the boy in pantaloons singing. It is not always a sad song, this place. And not so different from your urge to be wild and wanton. You have been here once, I promise. I saw you sitting under a lintel. I saw you sitting in the rain.
That was a severe winter. We pursued them by their hatchet strokes. I heard their voices at night over a fire. They made my job easy, sending smoke signals. At last I was old enough to kneel between them with the palm basket, feeling the cloth as it rose and fell with each hand. Hah, they thought I was ugly and old, and there I was, beautiful, startling, smelling the fire that grew red dust on their necks. I was never loyal, not once. I went right back to Efta and lay between her thighs. We made sounds together in spite of sleep. We talked about the ways sassafras could send them to their dying clothes. We laughed and laughed, thinking, what do you know of the roots we eat, the bark we wear? Still, it was not all for Efta. I was like a boy sent out to fetch pine nuts returning with firewood. At last, Efta sensed the disparity in our knowledge. What do you know of the moon house? she chided. Have you bled in water naked and cold? Soon the weather was calmer, warmer. In the mornings I delayed, drinking hickory milk. One morning I didn’t say goodbye to her. When I caught up to them, they were praying to the Toya with some kind of limestone ornament. They had dressed themselves in deer fur and bell-like stockings. I did not care for their fire in this weather. I walked past and they called out: You, you, Matron of the Night Ash, but it meant nothing. Hah, I was young again and a lake of green clouding stood before me. I took off the scarlet bark, exposing my beauty to the water. Naked and cold I bled across its body, never once seeing the other side.
PORT ST. JOE
St. Joseph Bay is on the right side of the Cape San Blas. It is navigable for a long distance until it drains into an endless number of mouths. Here no wind can be felt, only incessant rain. Here, they hate pearls for the sake of oysters which they love and never eat. You say, how could oysters exist without wind? How could someone hate a pearl? I’ve asked the same questions myself, both to scientists and romantics. To some fur-trappers too, Portuguese or otherwise. Beautiful male sunbathers. Little girls, grief stricken. These were the kinds of people I consulted. I received answers and would receive more, it is to be presumed. I’ve chosen to end my inquiry, however. For the sake of oysters, yes, but also for my father, who would not want me to be long-winded.
I wish for a man, six feet tall with a child’s face. He will lay with his feet toward the fire, and rise with a four-year-old ox by his side. I will not eat his Pampanos for any price. Did he want the candleberry myrtle that grew along the seashore? Or did he want her, the hands that carried it to him? Today we attach silk grass to wooden hooks and walk along the burning sand. He tells me elk is found in higher latitudes, as if I knew no Spanish fisherman from Havannah. Two girls wearing trumpet vines approach, the shortest one’s sweat visibly beating. They offer us oil from a shark’s liver, but he insists the ox cannot be sold for less than forty-one shillings. My face is red with shame. Surely this man cannot protect me from a falling top-mast or a lonesome dampness. I can easily see his roes of black drum are no different from the Spaniards’ caviar, that I have once again been deceived by a childish face. I turn to the girls while he and the ox pee in the oak scrub. I say, If you kill this man, I will walk with you at least to the plains of Diego.
Oh yes we are too. A man with silver hair loved a girl and she walked into dangerous water because she had mistaken his love for a kind of indifference, which happens here, and in other cities. Suicides aren’t really common enough to do studies about, and evidence has shown that if one studies things too closely, one falls in love like God with us. Or fathers, their daughters. Or nuns, their pen pals, who are inmates. Here, we do not let inmates out of our jails, but we do let others inside to stay like a hotel. In truth, it’s sort of like a nudist colony in there. But it’s not because people are horny, it’s because they are poor. Even the disgruntled nuns must abide. They have fallen in love, you see.
If you want to know something really scary and heart-throbbing, you must return to the 1812 census. That was our year. It felt like the world’s light was shining down on us. It felt like everywhere else was just stupid Mars or the unfathomable abyss that lies at the bottom of all our oceans. I was not there, but reading dusty, old records in a small-town library is unto another place. Like looking out a long red window full of pain you can feel that is not yours. Of course, it’s up to you, all of this. Small town libraries really don’t have many rules. You can go in there and sleep. You can argue with books in your head during opening hours. But holidays are disappointing, because they won’t let you in. And there are many: Veteran’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Memorial Day, Columbus. There’s really a lot more days than that I’m afraid, and I meant what I said when I said you can’t go in. Your only choice is to check out a book and read it in your own dusty home.
This is how virtuous we are. We found fault with Mayor Jeremiah Moore, not for his politics or Presbyterianism, not for his race or skin color, not for his grandson born out of wedlock, not for his questionable stance on the Armenian genocide, not for his spitting in the face of our military, not for his removal of homeless people from benches, not for his allergy to Penicillin, not for his tryst with a reporter from the New York Times, not for his desire to have breasts, not for his refusal to celebrate National Pina Colada Day, not for his support of Gay Marriage, not for his advice to Rosalind Baker, or the black eye he awarded her at one of his over-the-top Hawaiian pool parties. We found fault with him solely for the caution he displayed when it came to funding our local Animal Shelter. He said, and I quote, “It is my opinion every feline ought to be licensed and vaccinated, but as far as funding for the Animal Shelter goes, there are, at present, other priorities.”
After our lunches, we have nightcaps, and go strolling around the flower border. Once we were intimate like loosely bound paper. Now we are cradling our heads between our shoulders. This is so not good. Look at the fear you have in your eyes for the man with the newspaper! Did you see how awkwardly you stumbled into ordering a beignet? Sweetheart, what are we doing? I don’t want to live in a land full of nightingales! Delphinium! Delphinium, please, take me away from this place. Say goodbye to us in order for me to say goodbye to us. Say goodbye to us before goodbye to us becomes something else. Like nightingales, not even sad anymore.
Someone built a lighthouse and we decided to stay. Our pottery was crap. Some widow came here after her husband died. He was a chump with some kind of money– steel money, mob money, oil money, orange money, who gives a shit, he lifted her into a lifeboat through a window, and that was that. We did not bring coalsacks to the courtyard but a dude brought his Listerine. Once we sat behind a six tiered sugar-white cake inside the grand ballroom of a giant wooden hotel, awarding slices as prizes to dressed-up black dancing couples dubbed “cake-ists” by us, millionaire cocksuckers that we were. “Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom-De-Ay!” Yeah, we still are. One morning at a breakfast table a housewife serenely announced she was leaving these coconut plantations and orange groves for the prospect of marrying the Czar of all Russias. She was promptly committed to an asylum. The geriatric husband married a 30-year-old orphan and move into a pillared, marbled gold palace people compared to a garish railroad car. Every night his new wife threw that day’s dress in the garbage. Meanwhile, he was downstairs, wishing he’d bought a shack. 1917 was kind of historic. Two rich sick thugs were sitting outside the wood hotel asking themselves what they wanted to do with their millions. The dying fat one said, “I’d build something not wooden and paint it yellow.” So that happened, which was stupid. Some lady wanted to build a house like a Thailand temple with a bunch of blue and white porcelain elephants and yellow lemon tile everywhere. So that happened, which was stupid. The wooden hotel died eventually, rotted to the ground. As did the Astors, the Vanderbilts, the Lamberts, the Flaglers, the Goulds, the Stotesburys, the Gates, the Wanamakers, the Bradleys and a whole lot of other rich, white, fat motherfuckers. Of course, some were in debt by then or had left the area due to medical problems. We’re still around though. This sand’s got a cunt-load of business possibility. Gas, oranges, condo building. Some cheap Russian labor. Salt of the earth, isn’t that what they say? Oh yeah, fuck the Kennedys.
Our finger canals are chock-full of fecal matter. In August, our shoes turn blue. A flower is something boring and old. Snow is a miraculous festival. Oh September, Oh hurricane. Blonds are as common as cockroaches. Intellectual activity we like to keep at bare minimum. Church picnics can get mighty rowdy. Retirees can last a long time, if they’re careful. We have a Latin or Jew for your every pilgrim father. Like you, we arrived sort of like a violation. It didn’t end there, so to speak. Guava seeds arrived in the mouths of mockingbirds, etc. Our patron saints were born in bars. Children played a vital role in our cigar factories. We’ve moved on to retail and finance, where they’re slightly less helpful, so we send them to school instead. Twentysomethings love us, we’re still deciding. Our urban areas are full of passenger traffic from cruise lines. We are living in a biotic extreme you cannot even fathom. You’re jealous of us because our vote counts. No, it really counts.
We keep black sheep of good families confined in sordid places. Reasons are varied. Some say principle, others hygiene. Louis, we smothered with a cloak. We had tried a cow patty, a hen house, an ironing closet. We entered him in a cockroach eating contest (he refused). We put him in front of a tail rotor blade (he dodged). We tried to toss him in the town sewage tank, but we fell in before he did, limber fellow. He was no black sheep though. More like bad apple.
We are ornery per se, but not hardwon. Hernando De Soto came first and contributed nothing. Nothing. We knew horses were superior to people long before his muddied our sawgrass. De Soto was really a sheepish character, fashioning lances from ash trees and such. His men waddled around in stiff velvet suits, stole a hog or two, but beyond that, weren’t much trouble. An annoyance, to be sure. “Apalachen!”, “Vive Louis!”, “La bas Espagnol!” they bellowed, tripping over themselves in the forest. Yet for all that unintelligible screaming, not one returned with a partridge on his back. We did what we could, putting them up for a night, filling their bellies. We lent them blankets when they said they lost all their clothes. They came back and back and back. Finally, we gave them a woman in exchange for a looking glass, though it was less a transaction than a parting gift. Or perhaps, an act of pity.
Nelly left days ago and we have not found her. She carries so much wool in her pocket. The pockets at home are not near as suitable for long walking, the long walking I enjoy on days when the sun sets too early or late. If that doesn’t happen, I usually swim off the end of my pier. I never take the inner-tube but if it is morning and the birds are out, I will take the crab trap. Lugging a crab trap uphill I too often wish for rain. Rain could come to us at any season but for February only clouds come low. When dinner is ready, we don’t hear a bell or footsteps. Small whispers while scrubbing our plates with brine water. Nelly would always speak in a way that had nothing to do with me. She would always dry her hair in the shadow of the door. Back and forth back and forth she climbed carrying bedsheets or brooms or colanders of white plums. Outside spicebrush grew, hair for our dolls. Inside asparagus lay limp on our plates. Things would be left always it seemed. Coins in a ribbon case, keys in a clothes hamper. Avocado and yogurt and honey mixed up in a paste inside the fridge. We bought a sheep hound for the days we had to leave ourselves. We bought it for the days we heard voices in the walls. We bought it for the green and white that would happen in winter. We bought it for Nelly’s delicate fingers. My shawl. The peer sagged after the first storm. It was more red mud. We were so tired huddled together with amber in our glasses. That was the honey locust. Our food was simple. Trains brought it across the river in veins. A big wheel would turn. She would yell, jump, jump! I could see little faces in the seaweed. I saw spades on the way back to the cellar. I saw feathertails. Higher than pine needles, my lungs would burn. And sometimes, on the back porch, we would tell stories.
Duffie Taylor, after spending several years as a journalist and an instructor at the Kibiti Secondary School in Tanzania, is currently a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Her poems have appeared in both literary journals and anthologies, Best New Poets 2007 and Thirty, the celebratory collection of work from the first three decades of the Mississippi Review.