Billy shows us his arm, burned by
where pesticides sensitized his
those years of his childhood, playing
in Delta cotton fields. A charred,
hand-sized lozenge marks the tender
inside his elbow. Alex holds up
that shows the sickness and death
in her mother's family, from cancer
in Cancer Alley. She has made red
for "fought," green crosses for
she has put stars around her name,
my pretty dark-haired student.
They come to class, my sixteen freshmen,
and no matter what their topics,
they all say, "I never knew
Fords and Chevies that will barely
one more time are parked in the
and slick red mud. Early evening
pours down on the cypresses and
the Tallahatchie swamp at the edge
of Marshall County. Turtles poke
their heads up.
Cottonmouths zipper through black
or stretch out long and bask on
railroad bridge. Men and women of
beguile the hours after work,
the idle hours, with soft talk or
with bamboo poles and battered coolers.
They could use the food.
They fish for buffalo, catfish,
despite the fish advisories, the
waters laced with mercury.
© by Ann Fisher-Wirth