Unfinished, the road turns off the fill
from the gulf coast, tracing the bay, to follow
the inland waterway. I lose it in the gritty
limbo of scrub pine, the once wealth
—infantile again, and lean—of lumber barons,
now vested in the state, now sanctuary for renegades
and shamans, for pot growers and moonshiners,
the upriver and clandestine industries that keep
mostly to themselves.
Misting over a lake-front terraced lawn, evening’s pink
tablet, japanning lawn and lake, magnolia leaf,
ember easing, dips and gives gilt to the veiled
nocturne vanishing in the view: the hint of maison
through the woods faint as features pressed on
an ancient coin. Swart arms of live oaks that hag
their bad backs surreptitiously, drip Spanish moss
like swamp things out of where a pelican taxis limp-
legged across the lake, pratfalls awkward as a drunk
on a bike. The bat above me, like a flung wristwatch.
Copyright © 2007 by Gregory Pardlo. From Totem (American Poetry Review, 2007). Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.