Susu Jeffrey: The Hum of the Blood of the Earth [The Mississippi River Poem]

The Hum of the Blood of the Earth

                                        after Pare Lorentz

 

By Susu Jeffrey

 

Water roaring over rocks

in Dakotah, Min-ne-rah-rah

                 the sound of the falls

  discovered by Father Hennepin

    whilst a prisoner

      of native people

                 hard limestone

                 overlays

                       sand

               stone

Big River

       digs caves

       with mist.

Anishinabeg say, Ka-kah bi-kah

                          Split Rocks

    first falls north

    from the Gulf of Mexico

        called

          Curling Water

                   named

                    Split Rocks

                          labeled

                           Falls of St. Anthony—

on the great vein of the mainland,

current cuts rock

             rearranges maps.

 

St. Paul / Pig’s Eye

    dumps 350 pounds of cyanide a day.

New Orleans drinks

     bottled water

                            from the mouth

                            to the source

    raw sewage and dream songs,

layers

         of ancient

         inland sea

           break off

                    in chunks

    with trees leaning into the river

                                   like Li Po—

                 tamarack, birch, hickory            

         mullberry, boxelder

         sycamore, sumac, chokecherry, laurel

         willow, magnolia, cypress

bleed

                  medicine the color

of Mississippi.

 

            Down the Allegheny

               down the Monongahela

               down the Ohio

                       

great north woods cut and poled

               down the Mississippi to prairie

sawmills

south of St. Louie

        logged-out

                            French-

                      Canadian

                      Scandinavian

                      Irish, German

                      landless Yankee

Big Muddy melting pot

shucking silt two-thousand miles  across

    from Appalachia to the Rockys

 

               down the Kentucky, Tennessee

            the Yazoo and Arkansas

            down the wide Missouri

 

topsoil and road salt

sully the aorta of North America,

    industrial cholesterol

        a blood clot

Mark Twain can’t write off.

 

Old Man River—cotton highway

     banks and bluffs with names

        sandbars with numbers–

coyote river,

                   dances twenty-three-hundred miles

                    down

                      the heartland—

                          beaver islands and wild rice

                                buffalo, corn, catfish.

Great Water

    washes bones of bald eagles

points a migration path

    for geese, duck, red men, white

    and free men

        since Turtle Island rose

        from glacier weight

        and more deer than people

               drank at these shores,

twelve-thousand

years—I

             from mastodon to nuclear waste

         the river folds the land

   sweeps over cultures, languages

lost,

       except

                 the river song—

the hum of the blood of the earth,

the Mississippi.

The Mississippi.

 

No copyright but please credit Susu Jeffrey, 2014


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