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“I count it a small miracle that the Mobile-Tensaw Delta wilderness has survived mostly unscathed . . . . This three-hundred square-mile sanctuary would have been put to axe and plow generations ago if the powerful flows of two rivers had not secured it.”  (Edward O. Wilson)


Let us go then, you and I,

let us travel with William Bartram,

and with Ed Wilson, too, for every land

that’s my land is your land – so let us

let us set out, perhaps in a double-ender

with its pointed bow and stern dinghy,

let us sally forth in an open boat,


and let us listen. “What a sylvan scene is here.”

It is July 31, 1775. The air is hot and humid

and we’re following William Bartram.

“What a superbly crested silver plume,”

he says. “How sweet the aromatic Illicium grows.”


I borrow words. I borrow pens, I borrow paper,

and I go into the lowland Delta swamp

Bartram is with me, and I am with him, for time past

is time present . . . . He says he “forbears

to describe the trees and believes

plants and animals, the Indian and the white man,

are part of a “doctrine of light” – a garden of Eden

in south Alabama.  Look. Bartram’s hands stretch

out in reverence. He reaches toward the sky.


I am a time-traveler. The Delta does not belong

to human kind, although our kind has long intruded

upon it.  In this rich haven, mud squishes

under the pad of paw. Walkers tread with care
Some forty to sixty species and subspecies

of snakes thrive and slither here: the coral,

the striped ribbon snake, nearing extinction,

and rattlesnakes that cause me to shake with fear.


Crickets hum, mosquitoes whine, squirrels

chitter, owls hoot, and crows call in response

to the rain’s patter.  Come along. Follow

Bartram’s Trail with me. This land is our land

and the Delta needs human ears to hear its speech.

It needs our fingers to write the lisp of lips,

and our tongues to capture the stories transcribed

in memory books, recorded in brain marrow

and writ in parchment derived from trees.

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