Greg Stidham :: Mississippi in Spring


Southern Legitimacy Statement: Am I legitimate? Well, my parents led me to believe so. But legitimately “southern”? I was born in Indiana, lived in Ohio until age five, when we moved to Atlanta when it was still a town–pre-Falcons, pre-Underground Atlanta. Then I got dragged back to the midwest. After I finished endless years of medical training, I got my first “real” job at the children’s hospital in Memphis, where I lived for twenty-eight years, learned how to say “y’all” and that there is no such thing as a one-syllable word. I absorbed much of the culture of west Tennessee, northern Mississippi and eastern Arkansas. Once it’s in you, there’s no getting rid of it.

Mississippi in Spring

The muddy Mississippi waters rise
every spring, overwhelming the Arkansas
banks across from Memphis, making marshland
of soy and rice fields, flooding fishing camps.
The river looks gentle, lazy-gentle like
all of Memphis and North Mississippi,
but underneath are currents fierce.
They suck under careless canoers,
sweep them off before they’re afraid.
In spring, the slick muddy waters
slink their fingers ashore,
and the river appears three times wider
than three months earlier.
It is a beast, a monster
from millennia ago,
come to overtake the land,
and maybe its agrarian people too.
Come summer the river
will halve its width,
and the wetlands will have
transformed to verdant fields
of knee-high pod-laden plants
and wind-swept grasses.