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.
Added: Monday, June 30, 2014 / From "Totem" (APR 2007). Used with permission.
Gregory Pardlo is the author of Totem, which received the APR/ Honickman Prize in 2007, and Digest, (Four Way Books, 2014). His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Boston Review, The Nation, Ploughshares, Tin House, as well as anthologies including Angles of Ascent, the Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry, and two editions of Best American Poetry. He is the recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship and a fellowship for translation from the National Endowment for the Arts. An Associate Editor of Callaloo, he is currently a Teaching Fellow in Undergraduate Writing at Columbia University. 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.