Backwater Blues

by Anna Journey


The wisteria’s dumb pendulum, lavender
too loud for thistles—all this

and the moon isn’t man or woman
enough to inspire song

from mockingbirds in August—silence
all molting season.

In Mississippi,
in my grandfather’s orchard, there are two

kinds of apples: eaters
and cookers, and two kinds of sisters
wading the kudzu path. There are turtles

the girls can tell
return each year because our red dots

stay inked on their shells. And the smell of the Yazoo
will never leave—its black-eyed Susans
blunting the cherry picker,

rot of wild dill. It’s never enough
to remain

at the edge of the wood’s
makeshift arbors—snapdragons
still as killers’

red vests in deer season. It’s never enough to remain
in the body.

A turtle’s bare shell, disembodied,
backbone in high relief, topsoil caught in the vertebrae—

while the mottled birds watch us
from the stand of live oaks
we’ll dig it out each time

like a song’s dark
whiskey on the tongue.