Sunday, April 25, 2010

Crossing the Swamp - the rich and succulent marrows of earth

There's something about the bayou, Spanish moss, weeping willows, wading through untamed growth and grass. It's always held an air of mystery for me. I remember a thrilling teen novel that was set in the hot, sultry South, in which a mother had made a deal with the dark side to never grow old, and made the same pact for her teen aged son and daughter. To survive without people finding out her secret, she married wealthy men, only to kill them once they started to suspect they would never grow old together. They lived in a mansion far away from town — and if people happened to talk about the eerie resemblance of mother to daughter through the generations, it was okay. It was the South.

Treebeards 2 Tampa 2007, originally uploaded by DrGnu23.

Reading Mary Oliver today gave me a slightly less sinister reminder of swamp, bayou, rich earth.

Here is the endless
wet thick
cosmos, the center
of everything — the nugget
of dense sap, branching
vines, the dark burred
faintly belching
bogs. Here
is swamp, here
is struggle,
closure —
pathless, seamless,
peerless mud. My bones
knock together at the pale
joints, trying
for foothold, fingerhold,
mindhold over
such slick crossings, deep
hipholes, hummocks
that sink silently
into the black, slack
earthsoup. I feel
not wet so much as
painted and glittered
with the fat grassy
mires, the rich and succulent marrows
of earth — a poor
dry stick given
one more chance by the whims
of swamp water — a bough
that still, after all these years,
could take root,
sprout, branch out, bud —
make of its life a breathing
palace of leaves.

~"Crossing the Swamp" by Mary Oliver

(Top photo by Eddie O'Bryan, courtesy of New Era Portfolio)

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