“Bartram’s Trail” and “Pawley’s Island Shakedown”

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“Bartram’s Trail” and “Pawley’s Island Shakedown”

by Thorpe Moeckel
Southern Cultures, Vol. 11, No. 1: Spring 2005

"There's no horizon, / no line on the Atlantic. . ."

Bartram’s Trail

To follow Bartram’s trail upstream, past Tugaloo,
to cross the Chattooga River at Earl’s Ford,
to go up the Warwoman Valley,
up past the cascades & bridalveils of Finney Creek,
up along the Continental Divide
between Rabun Bald & Hickory Knob,
is to crawl, is to hopscotch
between the doghobble and the yellowroot,
the rhododendron and the laurel, hand over hand,
inch by dirty, glistening inch;
to follow Bartram is to squirm, prostrate,
under the lattice-work of limb,
the umbrellaed variations of lanceolate,
the way the lungless slip like tongues
through the tiny, moss-flamed grottoes,
oblivious to four-legged jesuses
walking on the water’s white-lit roostertails;
to follow Bartram’s trail is to go
wet-socked, knee-weary & briar-inked,
is to limbo under shadows
mosaiced and three-quarter domed;
to follow Bartram as far as the end
is split, past the leastmost echo,
past the hiccup of wild mint and galax,
the azalea, the teaberry, the trailing arbutus;
to follow Bartram into the shade of the giant poplar,
across the intersection of trunk and root,
across the blighted chestnuts,
is to find the place
where no pattern goes unrepeated,
the place where the first ashes were spread.

Pawley’s Island Shakedown

Today the light heals
and so does the dark.
Today we change
despite ourselves.
Thresholds appear
along the high tide line
by the driftwood and the abandoned boogie board.
See the wind, from the west,
comb the surf’s white hair back.
Downbeach, an osprey turns olympian rings
above the sand-flats,
above the shrill-green bands of spartina.

Downbeach, barnacles of sun pop
off the inlet
like grits on fire.
See the chased minnows’ quicksilver.

See the brown scum fiddlehead on the eddyline,
as the tide goes out,
as the marsh gives up its loot.
See it again and again

and again, in the surround sound of cicada and wave,
before the spread of tide-scalloped sand,
catamaran masts at eleven o’clock,
palmettos in fruit, swallows

darting above the green scissorhands of the leaves.
There’s no horizon,
no line on the Atlantic
as if the world was flat,

just the glare and the shine,
just human figures walking,
and the footprints of ghost crabs,
and the glare and the shade and the shine.