I didn’t much want to go,
not caring for adventure,
what to expect,

alligator attack,
drowning in deep water,
some vicious consciousness,
so far away from home.

The long train ride,
whistles in my sleep,
tug away from every thing I knew.


Because it’s tidal,
easy out toward the islands:
piles of shells in the shallows.

Mangrove roots red and tangled
dripping shells,
dripping mandrake-shapes,
wading seedlings gathering shells,
shell-sand grinding the canoe.

Sand crabs, mysterious digs
and arguments.
The strangeness of these fish.

Bromeliads arranged and mosses,
deep green shades, mosquitoes
between the trees.
All between the gumbo limbo
and mahogany, all along
Calusa paths.

Thick water silence,
green-gray shell-made clay,
islands the mangroves made,
Calusa made.

Hours of slow shell-grinding,
drip of water from oar,
drip from mangrove thick leaf, tangled root.
Then easy in,
the shallow tide slip gray-green.


To have without acquisition:
The new hat, but not on the head,
only the eye seduced with plumage.

Great Egret dressed in lace and masked in green,
Green Heron wing,  Little Blue Heron blue,
Purple Gallinule: purple feathers,  bill red and lavender.

Guy Bradley gave his life,
shot in the back on the shell-shored island.
Plumes worth more than gold.

Now they stand unconcerned, preening,
across the water among the trees.
Not enough water, the long grass river
not long enough,
but enough for now.


Terrible Lizard among us,
slowstep by step,
heavy lids the somnolent disguise.
There! a gentle drift, clear water;
there! the muscled tail winding snakewise
while each wading bird
steps delicately aside.

Its appalling ignorance,
the warm wet brightness of its home.


Underwater birdsnake anhingas brown, black,
sliding up, the speared fish tossed and caught,
white puffs of nestlings fed in the limey trees,
spreading tail, the arching display of black and white.

Little white little blue heron blotched with blue
in the molt, one glossy ibis, ordinary cormorant
eyes sapphire and obsidian, the orange of its bill.
Great blue heron.  Woodstork.  White ibis.
Egret, egret, golden-shoed egret.


Margery Stoneman Douglas
did not go slogging,
did not count the woodstorks,
homely as she, as endangered.
In her airy house she wrote the history, letters;
in palaces of power the old woman raised her voice:
Boo louder!  Can’t you boo louder?
and so what is left is left.
Her stork-face and unflattering hat,
comprehension of necessary salvation,
typing fingers dripping green water,
blue plumes, white plumes,
mahogany, bromeliad,
Mikasukis, Cow Creeks.
Everglades whispering
River of Grass, River of Grass,
the name she gave.


I stopped asking.
Things happen anyway,
we stay or go:
never what I think.
And yet,
there is a kind of love,
a river slow as Everglades
moving through sawgrass,
flood sometimes,
sometimes dry.
Not deep, but wide,
and most days enough
to float the canoe.

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