Southern Legitimacy Statement: My family came here the year before the Mayflower on the ship that Pocahontas went back to the mother country on. They settled in what’s now Patrick County, VA, and there they’ve stayed ever since. Except my grandmother, who raised me. She ran from the farm the first chance she got about as far South as she could get without swimming–Naples, FL. Then the North grew up around us, but that’s not our fault. I still drink my tea sweet and write stories about life in the swamp.
I Distrust New England Poets
their two roads meandering elsewherely in their leaf-strewn yellow woods,
their wild geese trumpeting their places in the family of things.
I distrust the idea of Nature as Heaven,
as Harmony, God-forbid, as Simplicity.
Where I’m from, Eagles snatch toddlers from porches
while grannies beat them off with brooms.
I may not have seen a loon rise up, stately, with a slapping pickerel,
but I have watched a blue heron
perch, stoically, on a momma gator’s head,
as a baby gator stealthed up on it.
Because that’s what you do
—predator and prey together—
to survive a dry season in the Everglades.
I would give vestigial organs
to retreat to that idyllic forest, God’s first temple,
a big black bear as my greatest fear
and a pie-baking mom in the wings for the weekends.
But is that really where I’d find the essential facts of life?
When my paths diverged in the moccasin-infested, mosquito-swarmed
Cypress swamp of my youth,
did one of the ways that I did not take
lead out from heartache?
My two cents:
Be patient and be tough,
Nature wants to eat you.