Dec 22, 2009

Encomium: Highway 49 South

Written by Joe Wilkins

Read by Matthew Henriksen

Fog this morning. Thick. And loving the thick bodies 
of live oaks, the skinny-hipped cypress. The way 
                                                            fog is the world before me, 
closes the world behind me. 
                                                Still I know the river 
is there. We move south together, each bend 
and turn of ourselves.

Near Midnight, Mississippi, the steep-banked roil 
of the Yazoo slows, spreads, 
                                    hangs like the one time 
as a boy I saw my grandmother. Naked. Her belly.

See how the cypress reaches into swamp water? Into dead leaves?
Into mud? Can you imagine? Mud 
                        what you love? In this world of six winds mud the one 
thing that holds you? You hold?

I must be lost. The ocean, 
            this great-swallowing body, has taken
the highway, the trees, my river. I walk waveblown sand. Scrub 
                                                                        a grit of it from my eyes. 

We know so little. We must believe
in everything. So let us pray: 
                                                            To grandmothers and rivers, 
pray. To thick oaks and any town called Midnight, 
pray. To sagging, naked bellies, to mud in your hands, 
                                                                        my mouth of sand, 
pray. To fog and this morning from the fog 
                                    like dark revelation, the blackbirds rising.
                                    Their thousand wings and the one wind a chorus,
                                    an orison that was, I swear, this 

sound of waves, pray.