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 drunkon a bike. The bat above me, like a flung wristwatch.
- Gregory Pardlo
From Totem (APR 2007). Used by permission.
Gregory Pardlo’s first book, Totem, won the American Poetry Review/ Honickman Prize in 2007. His poems, reviews and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Callaloo, Gulf Coast, Harvard Review, Ploughshares, Best American Poetry, on National Public Radio and elsewhere. A finalist for the Essence Magazine Literary Award in poetry, he is recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship and a translation grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. He has received other fellowships from the New York Times, the MacDowell Colony, the Lotos Club Foundation and Cave Canem. Pardlo is an associate editor of poetry for Callaloo, and an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at George Washington University and divides his time between Brooklyn and Washington, D.C.
Pardlo appeared on the panel Reclamation, Celebration, Renewal, and Resistance: Black Poets Writing on the Natural World at Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation and Witness 2010.
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