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a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society

Madison Jones

Silver Springs

We glide through the crystal water
in a rented canoe, drifting like Disney
park goers who took the wrong turn
down some overgrown channel to a place
where we can almost forget the plastic elephants
on the Jungle Cruise, faces frozen in human
grimace, staring out at the convergence
of the Amazon, Nile, and Mekong rivers.

These protected waters where fish as long
as my forearm trail the boat, blue bodies
cutting the currents and darting into the tall
reeds that line the soft white bottom, their stalks
grown mad with fertilizer and topsoil runoff,
cut from the neighboring developments.

The zoo cages still visible from the banks,
bars rusted and bending with the weight
of disuse. We imagine Rhesus Monkeys
staring through the branches, though they
refuse to appear. They’ve been disobeying
us since Colonel Tooley brought them here,
not knowing they could swim. This place

is theirs now. The remnants of the reptile farm,
the collapsed palisades of Kings Fort retreat
into the background like some collapsing icon,
ochre spears now point in all directions,
thatch from the roofs of derelict buildings
now packed into nests in dark spaces,
the sunken prop boat now a warm spot
for yellow-belly sliders and a young alligator,
sunning themselves in the gathering noon.


The sound of thunder plays on speakers
hidden above where misters kick on. We push
our carts through the blue, translucent hum

of refrigerated shelves. The warm afternoon
blows in through open roller doors from where
the parking lot refracts wet shimmers,

and cars idle like a backdrop to the man
picking avocados from a brown bin,
pressing his fingers into the alligator flesh

with the gentle pragmatism of the Michoacán
woman who picked it. How many cents
on the dollar go to the Caballeros Templarios

and how many to the farmers? Hectares
of pine forests vanish beneath that touch.
The carbon sink, the record droughts,

the distance between two points is not
always straight. Outside, the world goes on
reckoning, the cities drowning by degrees,

the species vanishing against the shore
of million year old plankton with a single flick,
one in twenty billion immolations,

the suffering of great grandchildren.
What will they think of us, picking out
green grapes wet with what we can believe

is dew? How far along are we in the story
of mankind? He chooses one, imagines
running a knife through its pulpy flesh.

Across the store, a cashier sets tomatoes
on the scale which beeps and tallies
the weights of distant elsewheres.


Madison Jones is a Graduate Research Fellow at the University of Florida, working on a doctorate focused on place writing and environmental rhetoric. Reflections on the Dark Water, his second poetry collection, was released spring 2016 (Solomon & George). Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Shenandoah, Painted Bride Quarterly, Greensboro Review and elsewhere. He coedited Writing the Environment in Nineteenth-Century American Literature (Lexington, 2015). His articles have appeared or are forthcoming in ISLE, Kairos, and Merwin Studies, and he has reviewed for KROnline, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and storySouth, among others.

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