Southern Legitimacy Statement: I was born and raised in Austin, Texas, attended college in Virginia and have lived and worked in New Orleans and Tuscaloosa for the 12 years since. My two-year-old son enjoys making angel biscuits with his great-grandmother, and I do, too.
Black Warrior River It is a mammoth lily pad. A trash can lid. A great armored bubble bobbing in the river, unable to birth itself from the surface. No, it is a turtle— what the first reflexive thought thought, before logic guffawed, the artifact found clownishly immense for an animal not yet extinct. Did you forget to die with the other dinosaurs? She will answer. Closer, she is spined with ancient knuckles. I waive another angler over. I have never seen so big a turtle in the wild, if the wild is where we are, here, between the dam and pier. He has not either. She rocks with flushes yawning from the weir, her head down like a snorkeler intent upon a star lodged within a reef. A piece of garbage sticks behind her, bagged and brightly veined. She doesn’t seem to mind, even though the bag is one of her soft organs and she is not held by a star, but by a line fixed deeper than we see. I have hung up here too. Cut my lines and left them, unthinking of their hazard. I did not forget to die, her body tells us. The moving water does her swimming for her. We lay on our stomachs, reach with sticks and catch her tether, tug her. Now we smell her, yellow, sour, easing toward us like a beehive best left sleeping. She wears claws like jewelry. She was a warrior-priestess or a queen. He holds her by the ankles and I try to lift her head. Taut, I touch my knife beneath her chin— the filament relents. He hefts her greening gallons from the water, falling to the pier. She rests. Is she smaller, now, and hideous, or just as grand, but sadder? She could not snap the line with all her razors. That flinted beak cracked open, edges wasted pleading with the shallows for a breath. How many hours did she hold it? Hind parts parched, shell hot as an island, cool at night. Her fossil eyes lost in the wet where there was a worm or shiner just like any other, and now nothing but strange pain inside, and wonder. In the drug of drowning could you see yourself as we do, Tangled Angel? Stepping stone from here to after, that we may use your back to get where we are going while keeping our feet dry.