Brandywine Creek Preambles

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.

About this Poem

"The Brandywine Creek enters Delaware about five miles north of Wilmington. The day I visited, kayakers, canoeists, and tubers floated under a cool green canopy. At one bend of the creek a woman waded knee-deep, coaxing her horse to follow. While we think of our parks as places that Americans have saved—and I am grateful William Bancroft had the power and vision to preserve Beaver Valley—our beloved creek reminds me that the Lenape (or Delaware) Nation lived on its banks before European immigrants arrived, and that the woods I walk have recovered from being cleared. The Brandywine Creek powered flour mills, cotton mills, and paper mills that supplied Ben Franklin’s print shop and the paper to print the Declaration of Independence. It also ran DuPont’s gunpowder mills. Jorie Graham asks, 'is it more eco-poetic to write about the bird or to write about the bulldozer about to destroy the bird’s habitat?' Though they continued to protest the mill dams, which destroyed their shad fisheries, the Lenape were already ninety percent decimated by 1682. I wrote this poem in the voice of the creek to meditate on its present and ancient passages through lives and deaths, and our future."
JoAnn Balingit