As tree islands are nutrient sinks for shit from farms, houses, and roads, so
too the mind in its turn-taking.
Pahokee, the Seminole call it, “grassy water.”
Ever as in “endless.”
Glade as in “clear, open space in woods.”
and bright because open, so that might be where gladness comes from, and
this sharp triangular grass, ten feet high, impervious to men or animals.
Sawgrass’ faint serration:
the winter we fled
wears on, wears on.
Untrammeled by man—
Jackson opened up South Florida’s legs, drained the swamp for shady
reasons, forever shifting the river of grass. The unconquered Seminoles,
needing less permanent shelter, tied palmetto thatch over cypress log frames,
didn’t lay down for whitey. The chickees had no walls. Get the picture.
Nikhil texted a picture of his morning routine:
biking to Deerfield Beach to watch the sun rise.
So many names
deer nor fields.
Sometimes the TV show guys, the studio guys, just don’t get it. The way they
mix the vocals. The vocals have got to be in the music, not on top of it, they
got to be in it.
There’s a devil bird
in the willow
and the plump black ball
of a bee’s plunged deep
in the globe thistle’s
purple dome of spikes.
When you love your brother
you best show it.
Find me, emergent,
in the quiet, shallow water.
On the single spike,
the deep blue leaves
Drape and splay,
sprawl and rue,
cypresses in Florida,
are cypresses in Italy—
We were outside of America and so saw it somewhat from the outside.
I saw 3 dozen birds
blue black and white
over sawgrass and paramite
tilt and toddle
in the sun-steeped sky
and I knew there were more
beyond what I recognized
What our stories imply
to believe music can make
the trees sway;
of women for boys;
beautiful boys are doubles
of the god;
how age is not
acknowledged, but consent
the dark and sacred gift of an animal;
grief’s welling sap;
like tears on the trunk;
and sex and hunting and
initiation are all
teeth in the same ageless mouth.
Also called the crying bird, the limpkin looks like a large rail, but is skeletally
closer to the crane. This odd wading bird has no close relatives. Mostly solitary, it
draws attention with its loud, piercing, krrr-eeeow wails, especially at dawn or
on moonlit nights.
Which is truer?
A) Nostalgia is an individual sickness.
B) Nostalgia is the national sickness.
They say that as the ecosystem was compartmentalized, as water was
regulated, tree islands became ghost islands.
Cousin Susan says, “The same kind of childhood they gave me, I want to
give my parents that same kind of retirement.”
The tour guide says, “Their courtship is a long process.”
A neighbor says, “I heard the 17th hole is down to white after they gave it 3
treatments of Round-Up.”
America is a just a word, but I use it,
but I use it (but I use it).
Within pore spaces
and fractures, increasingly
larger voids. Over thousands
of years, the unexamined life.
To dry its wings,
in its body—
that’s my own shit.
I put that on it.
His bed, his drumset, our amps.
Ready to go make some noise?
Downstairs could always hear upstairs, but seldom the other way around.
In such karst terrain, the surface
is shaped by weathering, the underneath
undermined by underlying
carbonate rocks’ dissolution.
it’s a mouthful, a mindful, another
metaphor: nostalgia runs the family.
Easy to believe we’ll never
play again, but here I am,
fretting the music of hearsay, hot
and hard for images in my head,
like the time I was waist-deep
in the sea’s surging come-and-go,
as a sandcloud swallowed my
legs, and the water kept working me.
There are great blue herons like mile markers along the canal;
there are vultures over the river of grass;
there’s a red-shouldered hawk that reels and veers in the wind, that soars
as it succumbs.
As deciduous trees shed needles in winter, acid is released into limestone,
deepening depressions. Life concentrates in these “solution holes,” and is
sometimes mirrored by the overstory in a cypress dome.
Solution holes fill with the wet season,
willows’ seedlings grow, leaves fall,
stems and twigs die and drop.
and repeat. Other lives gain a foothold.
When the willowhead becomes a bayhead,
it has changed character.
The purple gallinule has a candy corn-like beak;
we are told this, and we see.
As it flies, its legs dangle “conspicuously,” we are told.
As it swims, we see it nods.
About "Everglade Stacks"
Like a lot of my poems, this found shape in a sequence of sections mixing verse and prose (strongly influenced by Arthur Sze, Eric Pankey, C.D. Wright, and Charles Wright) and was triggered by a specific place. My family and I often visit my wife’s parents on the west coast of Florida in February, and one year we made it out to the Shark Valley section of the Everglades. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve loved visiting places to not only observe a different physical setting, but also to learn about that setting’s history, so the poem’s braided-bones are mostly made of 1) my perspective on the landscape, and 2) the language of placards, booklets, brochures, tour guides, songs in my head (in this case, twice from Fugazi’s “Stacks”), and the people around me.
This visit was also made special by my friend Nikhil driving west from Florida’s east coast to meet us. Long ago, around Washington, D.C., we used to be in a band with our friend Jeff. Nikhil has been a soundman for bands ever since, and we hadn’t seen each other for years. D.C. and my time playing with Jeff and Nikhil (which has since continued a bit) is still a presence in my life. And so, as every life is ecological, the poem tries to honor the particular ecology of that day in that place: the nostalgia and the wariness of nostalgia, the political and the personal, the mythological and the modest, the ambitious and the ambivalent, the historical vanity and the natural beauty.