The Garden of the Fugitives (Texas Review Press, 2014). Originally published in Southern Humanities Review (Fall 2009).




Men drowning dream of flight.

Their bones thin into stems of cattails,

their arms leaf out.  Beneath the swamp

water’s skin of sky, believing

in the rising of their changed bodies,

they mistake for storm-stripped crowns

the labyrinth of roots.  At rest

within the bottomland forests they felled,

they grieve us back into the world.


From the stumps of the Tensas, an uprush—

a dream?  Beneath the oar

beat of my wings,

a child, sprawled on a mud flat,

its eyes reflecting my yellow eyes …

a dog, its leathered carcass hung

by floodwaters in a scrub oak.  North,

towards the smell of swamp decay

and the sharp sweet lily, the rumor of a mate,


I turn the sky aside,

row to this diminished wood.

No red wolf’s song, no panther’s rip.

Only the rumor—they speak it, the living men

who disguise themselves as trees

and whisper in tree-tongue.

Like the cypresses, they stalk the river.

From them, I have learned to be sly.

Quieter now, I tear into rot-soft Tupelo

and rake the crawling meat.


My shadow falls over water ash

and buttonbush, swamp rose

and lizard’s tail, heron and hawk,

the banded water snake,

swarms of frogs small as horseflies,

and men dreaming that I am God.

The rumor of a mate carries me.

The blades of my wings

feather the sky, fan out the sun.