Jake Adam York

A Natural History of Mississippi

A blade of rust from the ocean
and from the air a rumor
that corrodes the earth in tongues,
lichen, moss, magnolia,
until each gossip’s true.
Things go this way,
each green repeating its fact
of sun and wind and rain,
its dialect, its blade,
while beneath each leaf
a quiet cuts between the veins.
Laced, pale wings open
to learn the particular weather,
the place or part of speech
that will darken
and give them a name.
So each sugar furls
to burn and bitter
against whatever mouths
might swallow,
each skin becomes
the history of its harbor,
another word for here.
This hatch of bark and shade,
it hangs like a photograph
of all it covers, so perfect,
so still, its edges
blur, then disappear.

Jake Adam York
“A Natural History of Mississippi” is from Persons Unknown (Southern Illinois University Press, 2010).