what will you make of this scratched paradise?

from Chronic by D.A. Powell

“cancer inside a little sea”

for the rivers, draining toward the coast, carry such silt
and the red mangrove, entwining root with excrescent root
prospers its mighty nation—bubbleshell, jingleshell, rotting chips

the flecks of understory leaves, crud and algae, scum—
like a submerged derrick, its network of cables impenetrable
and profuse, the trees knot and twist, trap the water’s swill

a ratsnake in the branches, girding the lowest bough
and the strangler fig constricting trunk to trunk, arterial mass
wrapped over, in the insidious embrace of virginia creeper

what has been garnered of this wetland except the twigs
organic and inorganic mud, quartz-rich and mercury-laden
the accumulation of contaminants, cadmium, diquat, toxaphene

and always, the sandbars eroding at the periphery
where freshwater meets saltwater, and sawgrass swamp
drains into estuaries and bay. and always the balance

upset, as herbicides eradicate cat’s claw vine
which has choked out carrotwood, which has displaced cypress
and the sea absorbs the toxins and eliminated matter

what does it matter now, what is self, what is I, who gets to speak
or who does not speak, whether the poems get written
whether the reader receives them whole, in part or not at all

child to come, what will you make of this scratched paradise
this receptacle of soil, water, seed, bee, floating scat and spore
brutal wind and brutal tide. the insignificance of fortunes


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