by Kerri Green

          Marker Coordinates N 33 ° 26.07 W 086 ° 6.181
          Intersection of East Battle Street and Court Street North
          Talladega, Alabama, Courthouse Lawn


(plaque reads)
                           Battle of Talladega
                              Nov. 9, 1813
                      Here Andrew Jackson led
                      Tennessee Volunteers and
                        friendly Indians to victory
                        over hostile “Red Sticks.”
                            This action rescued
                         friendly Creeks besieged
                               in Fort Leslie.
                        Creek Indian War 1813-14.
           Erected by Alabama Historical Association


The history of here begins with the soil
and the history of here begot the soil:
layer of brown loam—familiar dirt—
on a silt-red clay: grittier, coarser
than Tatum soils, broken by layers
of bedrock, not like the full soils of Masada,
Tallapoosa, or Wickham, but better drained
than Chenneby or Chewacla. Here’s foundation
is hard, tilted slate and phyllite and the land
the soil of here comprises is layered in steep
slopes and so plagued by high erosion: rocks
jut through with a hand-sweep of the top layer,

               so it is soil unsuited for crops

but for trees? Here loves trees. Subtropical,
deciduous forests of oaks, hickories, magnolias,
and pines in the uplands; of birches, ashes,
more oaks, more pines, hackberries, dogwoods,
and sycamores in the well-drained bottom valleys;
even the poor-drained bottom valleys yield
sweetgum, red maples, willows, water oaks,
black tupelos, and swamp red oaks. Their bones
are layered in the soil and their descendants
sprout from the soil that fed on their decay,
the leaves, twigs, branches, whole flowers,

               and all the animals of here:

not just one Andrew Jackson, but a wilderness
of armadillos, bats, coyotes, foxes, black bears,
raccoons, weasels, minks, river otters, polecats,
bobcats, shrews, moles, opossums, swamp rabbits
and marsh rabbits, cottontails, chipmunks, mice
woodchucks, squirrels, gophers, beavers, rats
voles, muskrats, elks, and deer—here even had
wolves, red wolves, cougars, and bison before
the extirpations of the native fauna, including

               the indigenous Muscogee Nation

who were here before here was named Talladega,
when here was still named Talatigi, and was made
of many peoples, including refugees— the Yuchi,
Shawnee, Chicksaw, and Natchez, whose own heres
were usurped by French and Spanish colonists; and
that all was before here was named for a war
given the Creek name but started by another’s desire
to claim here for themselves, but here was already
a home of peoples whose names are still here,

               as numerous as the water systems

underneath here, swelling the Coosa’s banks, so here
is also a river fed by both the metasedimentary and
meta-volcanic aquifer and the Valley and Ridge aquifer;
a river connecting the lakes Neely Henry, Mitchell,
Lay, Logan Martin, and Jordan; the waters that touch
here flow down the Alabama, which at times is merely
a trickle, yet it finds a way until it reaches Mobile,
then it’s on to the Gulf of Mexico on to the Caribbean
on to the Atlantic on to other heres and those heres

               to other heres until I forget

how here can be any one place because doesn’t here
in some way reach all the way to the mountain range
south, southeast, and northeast of here—who legend
has it was once a warrior in love but now sleeps
like a peaceful giant on the horizon, his soil piled
up to the highest peak in Alabama—that I can see
from here? And if here is the mountain then here
is also the Pinhoti Trail, ending down in Heflin Spur
in a parking lot and up in Springer Mountain in Georgia
in the Benton MacKaye Trail, so here could be a part
of the Appalachians, yet even all of that is the here

               after here belonged to the Mississippians,

whose giant earth mounds were made from here’s soil;
and that after here belonged to the Aurignacian peoples
who came from the Emiran peoples of South Europe
who came from the ancient peoples of Africa; yet even
before them here belonged to other kingdoms of species
entirely; before them here was covered in a salt-ocean
whose shells are still here somewhere down in the soil;
and all of this the same here that was here before and after
the stretching and snapping of one here into seven heres;
before here was the Earth, before here was even here,
when here was still a nowhere and a nothing just waiting
to flourish; here was at one time each and all of this,

               but now this plaque defines here

as whole eons diminished to the commemoration
of one man whose bones never even fed here’s soil.

back to University & College Poetry Prizes