Lise Latreille, Barn Church (photograph)

We wake to a world
shaken out of square.

Tree limbs spike the lawn.
The live oaks are upended
& roots the size of a sedan
face sunward.

Every stoplight in town
is dark & the sidewalks
are slick with shucked leaves.

The creeks & bayous
are storm-swollen.
Shimmering runoff
bloats their banks.

Before the axes & the chainsaws
& the children carrying
what small limbs they can,
an after-storm stillness

so the whole town
speaks like church.

And in the swamp outside town,
a stand of bald cypress
is gaunt & silvered
in the brackish water.

Hawks call for prey
from their perches
at the marsh’s edge.

Saltwater & subsidence
etch a dark path
through the swamp.

The stories say
the river held us
in its mouth.

Then the river
shifted west again
& we were left
dry-boned & sorrowful.

We live now in later times,
with levees & spillways that hold the river
to its shores, with waters
rising yearly in the gulf.

Now is when we’d like to pray
but we’ve forgotten all the words.


Nancy Reddy