The shared word for a shared place.
Where the Mississippi river meets
the Atchafalaya river
meets the Gulf.
Estuaries filled with shrimp and speckled trout,
egret and osprey, cypress swamps, oyster reefs.
Where people and tongues and cultures and inflections
have always mixed.
How copper got to the Arctic and turquoise
to the Caribbean, glass beads and buttons distributed
to the far reaches.
We’re still here, they say.
Bulbancha never left, its long tendrils from the past
unfurling themselves into the future to grab
what is rightfully theirs, reclaim and revive.
Native voices rising, along with the rising tides,
the rising heat, the rising anger.
The landing place for the life force that splits
a continent in half, the river waving, rolling
over landscapes far and wide, back and forth
with glacial time.
Cartographer Harold Fisk capturing
the meander maps for us to marvel
the river that has a will of its own.
Its ever-shifting banks, alluvial valleys,
just causalities in its innocence
and its vengeance.
On top of which the colonizers paved,
dug new courses, cleared logjams,
installed floodgates with barges and donkeys,
later levees and pumps and electrical failures
12 feet of water on top
of below-sea-level-ground. Digging canals
to dig for pipelines to dig for oil,
the silt and saltwater intrusion a shock.
The high water table, liquid in the darkness
always moving and shifting below
unsteady ground. Causing corpses
to rise up too, outstretched hands,
no longer able to bury the past,
to ignore history,
when it is reaching for you.
Written 2022 after a visit to New Orleans