a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
Scatters of little gray birds flutter back and forth
across the high barbed fence,
and after a rainy month the bare Delta prison yard
is splotched with green.
I crane my neck to see if the men
in their green and white striped pants
are crossing the macadam from the ward.
Not yet. Not yet to come to this large gray room
and read each other stories of their lives.
I do not know these men beyond our hours.
I know they do not have a.c.,
even in the Mississippi summer,
and the one fan, an old-style box, does little,
so that, when they write on the ward,
their sweat pools on the page.
I know they have grandmas,
because they tell about grandmas.
One of them writes about
killing a high-placed Klansman.
Some write copiously. Others, in fragments.
Smooth moves with the ladies,
ominous dreams, near-death accidents,
longings for their children. Lockdowns.
Strip-searches, being shunted in trucks
in cages from place to place.
But no matter what they’ve done,
no matter how beaten down they look
sometimes when they arrive,
as the hours pass, laughter comes.
Halting or in a rush, words come.
They listen to each other, bear each other up.
As a guy in Big Mike’s story says, You feel me?
Ann Fisher-Wirth’s fifth book of poems, Mississippi, is a poetry/photography collaboration with Maude Schuyler Clay; it was published by Wings Press earlier this year. Ann is also the coeditor (with Laura-Gray Street) of The Ecopoetry Anthology (Trinity UP 2013, 2014). Her work has appeared widely in the United States and abroad and has received various awards, including two Mississippi Arts Commission poetry prizes, the Rita Dove poetry prize, a Malahat Review Long Poem prize, and a Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters poetry prize. She has had residencies at Djerassi, Camac, Hedgebrook, and The Mesa Refuge, as well as senior Fulbrights to Sweden and Switzerland. In 2017, she was Anne Spencer Poet in Residence at Randolph College. A 2015–2018 Black Earth Fellow, she teaches at the University of Mississippi, where she also directs the Environmental Studies program. And she teaches yoga in Oxford, MS.