1. Be it known I was born in deciduous Forest though I appear to come from Sea.
2. In the year of my birth, billion-year-old Rock. Appalachia dapple grey.
3. I looked up at those loaves like a three-year-old met with giant mother’s naked ass. I watered her Toes. I ran and ran.
4. It’s good not to be dead I knew, in my own lap with the mourning dove.
5. Water drinkers hovered around me. Piedmont to fall line, grandparents to parents, coastal plain to marsh, my world of voices and sharp claws.
6. A high song spills from me and quiets never, not for Flood—
7. On summer weekends the city children the city children the city children ride their vinyl creatures down my Shoals.
8. I remember a chorus fell, old growth fell, white village growth, villagers’ low chorus with musket-fire, thunder-fire cloud crack, downpour, the People pouring blood. The Eagle’s white face and tail.
9. I am history of Moss and Temperature.
10. blocked bombed dammed deeded bridged diked drunk fished prayed-in swum dived-into dredged dreaded diverted disregarded painted sung splashed waded drowned-in longed-for named named named
11. And more than once they set fire to my sleeves and petticoats. Jack in the Pulpit, Trout Lily. Mother’s crowns towered down, pinning each other across my slender back. I turned blue, like the Sky.
12. How is it I’ve become my own Mother? Sing in her treble voice? Take her mouth to bed?
13. At night the shooting Stars tack tulip trees to heaven.
14. Father, my Father, wherever you are there is always a body upstream.
15. History of fishing spider, shad, wolf, eel. Bog turtle, heron, peeper, bear. Our Salamander of the Wet Perpetua.
16. Always I am leaving home. Always I am coming home.
17. I looked up and the ash were back, both white and green, sycamores, beech, swamp maple. Oak, centuries of them. Last night’s rain dripped from their leaves onto my silver face.
Copyright © 2016 by JoAnn Balingit. This poem was commissioned by the Academy of American Poets and funded by a National Endowment for the Arts Imagine Your Parks grant.