Academic journal article African American Review

Mississippi River Poems

Academic journal article African American Review

Mississippi River Poems

Article excerpt

"The Mississippi rolls because there are skeletons rocking in cypress knee chairs under the silt." (Malaika Favorite, "Uses for Dry Bones")

I

The river that divides but also connects, reaching from shoreline to bank - It connects this city to isolation and rain, rolls silently, making a path for flotsam and barge, and light shading light.

"Come quick! The Delta Queen is passing!"

In the night its beams glow like teeth, each poised for the bite, like coins, like Mardi Gras at the height of the parade - the many-colored beads thrown to the sky, to the ground, to hands clutching for the magic of connection - human spillage believing in the promise of joy.

The Mississippi rolls. The Delta Queen, maiden river boat with revelry the norm, passes in twilight. Laughter spills over dark water, the coastline "rocking in cypress knee chairs under the silt," singing their songs of death, waiting like saints, waiting like gods, promising no promises.

The river's chant ringing forth.

II

Once I stood on the banks of the river. The water was green, gray, the color of grass, the heaviness of dawn, the ending of twilight, blackness that soothed the thickening air, that darkened the sky, that covered a marsh no child would explore.

Mornings I surveyed the sparkle, the surface - beads of ebony that moved like water snakes, or sauntered, rasping in one long breath - no beginning or end - a perennial inhaling of light, or exhaling the dark bowels of her depths. …

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