HomeSouthern VoiceMy Mississippi

My Mississippi

by Laura Sobbott Ross

Mud womb, fossil, mother-speak,
first breath, bread, breadth of horizon—
catch-all for floods and storms.
For every city, a river, blood
pact between land and water,
sharing what brothers would:
homestead, livestock, harvest, dreams.

We’re all family here.
Mine were among the first
white folks in Mississippi. Men
who followed rivers; women
who followed men, knee-deep in it,
as if kudzu were a calling, this delta
keeping them all rocked and fed. Spanish
moss hung like laundry in the cypress;
constellations keening through cicada.
Flavors steeped so slowly in the skillet,
you can taste a horizon on your spoon.

The word bayou, an echo of Hallelujah;
blues twanged from gravity so still
the sky floats down to the water skin.
Nothing raucous but guitar licks, flocks
of clouds, craved and preening. Nothing
rolling but lyrics like baby, my baby,
like cry, like hard, like train. Nothing
rolling but rotary tillers or the ancient
mounds of the Choctaw— a question
mark tipped forward into this golden soil.

Relics rise up with high waters—
talisman, drumbeat of ghosts, dirge
for what broke on bruised knees
between stalks of cotton, this bone
marrow of sweat and cinder and steam,
Faulkner’s light in August. Barometer
of sweet gum and paw paw leaves lifting
suddenly to share their understory.

A Confederate coin sifted from dust
in the crawl space. Rivers, the lace edge
on a map of steeples, bridges, and humid beds
of oysters singing about highways
on their gray, salty tongues. A loneliness
that can cure paint, a steel eddy in the sweetbrier,
as if every tree were solitary, a universe
of fruit and stars. So rawboned, you’ll remember
it. This place. That ache in you swelling into song.
You’ll rise like a phoenix to rebuild again
and again and you’ll never feel more alive.

Laura Sobbott Ross’s poetry has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize and appears in the Valparaiso Poetry Review, Florida Review, Columbia Review, Calyx, Natural Bridge, Tar River Poetry, Cold Mountain Review and many others. Her chapbook, A Tiny Hunger, won a statewide contest from YellowJacket Press. She lives in Mount Dora, Florida. Read her previously published poem in Deep South here

Bread and Butter
Literary Friday, Edi