a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
into Walmart to get a Coke
innocently crosses into my frontier
where houses were sparse and streets were sand.
Pine woods cut to feed the paper mill
returned as sulfurous emissions
staining the air at dawn.
Among the stumps, palmetto,
scrub oak spread like matted hair.
Creeping Eruption made a livid snake,
writhing with subcutaneous larvae
up my foot and leg,
for which the treatment was
chemical freezing of the skin.
To show me he knew how it felt,
the doctor sprayed his free hand, grimaced, smiled,
then locked my foot in a lake of ice
like the one at the bottom of Hell
that holds a ravening Satan numbly fast.
Why did you hit your little friend?
Because he was weak,
because the square-headed older boy
I ran with despised him.
The silver-pointed belt tip bit his skin.
I wanted to hit him again
but someone took my belt away.
There was never room
in our barefoot children’s bodies
or in the houses of that broken landscape
for the reckoning we ached for.
The skin snake burned
until the larvae stilled and dried.
The hookworm-hollowed dogs continued
their patrols, but perhaps this was the beginning
Or the serpent may just have burrowed in:
the sore of entry heals without a scar.
The T-shirt on the man with the AK-47
says, Don’t Tread on Me.
Jonathan Cannon teaches environmental law at the University of Virginia School of Law. He grew up in the South and has lived most of his life there.