from Mississippi

Ann Fisher-Wirth in collaboration with Maude Schuyler Clay

 

These three poems are part of a collaborative book project called Mississippi that involves my poetry and the photography of the Delta photographer Maude Schuyler Clay. It’s important to know that the poems are in a variety of Mississippi voices–all fictive but all based in various environmental difficulties that besiege the state: periodic flooding of the Mississippi River; depleted soil and therefore poor harvests, plus massive deforestation; poverty. Yet the beauty and cultural richness and complexity of the state are also very real.

 

 

Cottonfields -Maude Schuyler Clay

Maude Schuyler Clay

 

[We’re mostly headed for hell]

 
Ann Fisher-Wirth

 

We’re mostly headed for hell now the devil’s come among us. No point reading the papers, watching the news, just got to lay up for the family best I’m able. My third wife, Jeanie, she’s got this little girl, bucktooth as a chipmunk, needs some orthodontia. Wood’s rotten on the porch, like to be some job getting that replaced. Squirrels at the wiring in the attic. And I still got to be paying child support to the deep-dyed bitch who run me out, and the other one, Bonnie, good Christian woman, good cook too, but she didn’t take to doin the dirty. Well what do you think?—couldn’t help it none after Jeanie leaned over me, holding my jaw while the doc pulled that molar. Soil’s poor, too much rain, no rain, cotton used to be good, but sparse this year no matter how you spray it—and now I’m up against selling off more timber. Loblolly pine. Grows fast, good money, but even it don’t thicken like it used to. Heart pine? thing of the past. Can’t find that good hard sappy wood no more, it’s all cut down, like my grandma’s house was built of, even the termites couldn’t chew it.

 

Maude Schuyler Clay

Maude Schuyler Clay

[Like to drove me crazy]

 
Ann Fisher-Wirth

 

Like to drove me crazy

the cicadas in the privet and pecan trees

whupping up their little motors

all those nights

 

like beating the eggs for angel cake

I’d churn that eggbeater

faster and faster

till my hand got tired let it fall back quiet

 

then oh shoot eggwhites not stiff enough

so here we go again

 

and them crickets

chirping and buzzing all silvery and tinkly

summer nights as I laid by Bobby

 

one day he flipped his ATV

hurt his foot couldn’t drive no longer

so we retired

bought a cabin out by Sardis

 

but we were happy in that house

fan stirring            sheets damp

he’d lick the salt right off my neck

 

all those bugs clamoring up

like love

 

 

Maude Schuyler Clay

Maude Schuyler Clay

 

[You may not have these cushions]

 
Ann Fisher-Wirth

 

You may not have these cushions

they are the ones my dying aunt chose for me

 

you may not have these spoons

though they tarnish in my drawer

 

or the blankets

that I mended

 

look at this pretty blue plate

with the flowers

and the bird

 

look at this cast iron skillet

 

oh, go ahead                rise up

 

smear the boards

soak the house

 

until it buckles             until it cracks

 

 

and whoosh

 

with a sigh and            lip                    lip                    lip

it subsides

 

Don’t you know we’ll get away

 

don’t you know we’ll leave by boat

 

Ann Fisher-Wirth‘s fifth book of poems, Mississippi, is forthcoming from Wings Press in 2017; this is a poetry/photography collaboration with the acclaimed Delta photographer Maude Schuyler Clay. Ann is coeditor of The Ecopoetry Anthology, published by Trinity University Press in 2013. A fellow of the Black Earth Institute, she has held residencies at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, CAMAC/Centre d’Art Marnay, Hedgebrook, and The Mesa Refuge. She teaches at the University of Mississippi, where she also directs the Environmental Studies program. And she teaches yoga in Oxford at Southern Star.

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