Today's poem is by Doug Ramspeck

Bottomlands Tongue

And so the burning of this sun beside the pickerelweeds
                and flowering wapatos,
the burning in the sluggish brackish waters,
this light both swallowed and reflected
in the dense unbreathable air where a cottonmouth
                is dropping like ripe fruit from the limbs of a black tupelo,
where the augury of evening is descending
                                        on the houses by the oxbow lake.

And here is this old man with a possum skull kept secreted
      beneath the bed he shares with his dying wife,
while a young girl is gathering yellow flags and Spanish moss
                to make a salve.
And what of this pregnant woman with her hands
                gripped beneath her alluvial belly,
dreaming of her mud child,
                                        of this fertile loam inside her?

Or what of the lovers meeting at dusk beside a black willow?
The air dense with storks and ibises and cranes
                taking flight into the bloodied evening air.
The mosquitoes swarming on the bodies as they lie down
                in the swamp while an alligator snapping turtle
rises from the depths,
its carapace stained green as it carries with it the congealing muck.
And the catfish, bottom dwellers, feeling their way along the lake's
                                        mud with their long barbels.

Or the story in these parts of a mad woman who kept
                in a pickle jar the blackened tongue of her dead husband.
And the tongue spoke to her at night of prophecies and occultations.
And the tongue, listing in formalin, cursed the trees
                in the mad woman's orchard,
so that all the apples fell to the ground and rotted and fermented.
Until the woman threw the jar as far as she could
into the oxbow lake, and that night the bats flew out
from the water and swarmed everywhere for miles
                                        like black tongues.

Copyright © 2009 Doug Ramspeck All rights reserved
from Plain Spoke
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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