a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
while I built forts with Spanish moss and palm fronds,
kept baskets of crab’s eye, their red and black seeds
that with one swallow could kill. I shook them
in their claw-pods and loved death’s power, feared it
in the tight spaces of my bones, the way I’d been taught
to fear the flash of a coral snake among sandspurs
and railroad vine.
at the Cape, imagined clouds of herons lifting
from the mangrove’s roots, snakes disappearing
underneath the swamp’s black mirror; otters, turtles,
the dragonfly, all things alive suddenly disappeared
in air-shredding noise of tests gone wrong.
my frond roof the night my mother called me from the woods
to the rectory porch for watermelon, iced tea and a rocket launch.
In cowboy boots and terrycloth, I picked verbena for my hair,
listened to grownup talk, my brother’s baby songs
in air sweet with salt, a little breeze against my neck.
weren’t at the windows so I couldn’t talk to them. Instead,
I fiddled with periwinkle, lantana and trumpet vine,
tucked them in my shorts, my hair, my cowboy boots.
watched the rocket’s trail rise like a white lariat
until the sky ripped open like a bag of blood,
another launch gone wrong, but this time
I tilted into the sky’s huge bowl, falling into the red,
the stars a smear of fire now, living things now dead,
my feet no longer on the Earth.
still peeked from my boots, the grownups still on the porch,
but it was as though I’d swallowed the beautiful crab’s eye
and those seeds had hurtled me into an edgeless world
far beyond what I’d been taught to fear.
Ann Stanford has published poems in the Michigan Quarterly Review, Borderlands, Contemporary Verse 2, Persimmon Tree, Slipstream, Blue Mesa Review and several others. She was the artist-in-residence at the Everglades National Park in July 2016. She teaches at DePaul University in Chicago.