Read three of Anne McCrary Sullivan's poems from "Ecology II: Throat Song from the Everglades," a book of poems inspired by her residency at Everglades National Park.
This is what I have learned: weeping for beauty replaces weeping for grief. Stunned at first by the blue heron’s crest, the purple gallinule’s iridescence, grief now creeps as surely forward as this subtle river of grass flows south.
It goes about its quiet work stealthy as the yellow panther in the understory, necessary, as everything here is necessary each to the other in a complex ecology.
Yesterday, only once I felt it moving. It lifted like a bird from the expanse of sawgrass, startled me. I had stopped looking for it.
This grief is learning to ride the anhinga, glide and flap through forgiving air. It lands in bark-stained water, dives beneath the surface, swims—I see it there, indistinct shape, a quivering blur. On the bank,
the gator’s black back stretched in sun amazes me, makes me think that I can touch a fine living leather with claws and teeth.
At Season’s End, Singing to The Alligator
I was prepared to arrive at the slough and for the first time
find no gators there, but there was one swimming steadily
away from the boardwalk. I watched.
I began to sing to him (I don’t know why), hum rather.
He slowed down. A coincidence probably. I kept humming.
He stopped, turned sideways, looked at me.
I came then as close to holding my breath
as one can while humming.
He began to submerge (felt safer that way, I suppose)
but did not submerge completely. I hummed.
Slowly, he swam toward me
stopped directly beneath me
hung in the water the way they do
legs dangling, listening.
(Be skeptical if you will.
I know that gator was listening.)
We stayed that way a long time,
I leaning over the rail humming,
he looking up at me, attentive—
until he folded his legs to his body,
waved that muscled tail and left me
alone, dizzy with inexplicable joy.
I eat of lemon bacopa.
The mosquito drinks my blood.
My eating is ritual.
Her eating is life.
We do what we must.
She pollinates the orchid,
lays her eggs.
I look for myself
blooming in the branches.
Poetry is a way of seeing. It requires heightened attention to detail and a sensitivity to pattern and relationship. It looks simultaneously at inner and outer worlds, locates connections, and ultimately presents a meaning-charged kernel of experience.
When I first came to the Everglades, I felt a profound sense of homecoming, a mysterious emotional connection to expanses of sawgrass, swaying pinelands, dense hardwood hammocks. During the AIRIE residency, my work turned on an axis. Bringing science and art into close relation, I adopted a methodology of field work, keen observation, use of field guides and scientific resources, and the teasing out of metaphorical implications.
Every day I paid attention to the natural world, looking through a macro lens at the small, then looking up at the larger context, exploring what it means to be human in ecological complexity. The Everglades are now central to my work and life, as I learn from and write in the grand web of being.
Last updated: February 4, 2015