A purple blush above the marshes; below on the wooden deck, two boys squeal at the cage of crabs they’ve yanked from the muddy inlet. Each year we come back to this:  A heron’s white

cross sails towards the sea, the tide crawls out,  and a wasp sputters about the wooden shelter as I take it in—my boys, the caged crabs, the heron, the sky; a scent of iodine, salting my tongue.

Once slaves hid in these islands, scions of  of a tongue they kept alive for their own,  foraging boars, fish, crabs and deer,  a teeming Eden just beyond original sin.  

Nights over the ocean, did the stars chart  myths they shrouded from their far forest home? Did they cipher barking hounds hunting within the tidal winds?  Or chant rhythms and songs

to ward them back?  Did they holler praise  to the crabs and boars and fish for their bellies?  Pray to their gods to hold their bodies hidden? And are they still listening, those Gullah ghosts?

Now, ripping thru the inlet, a giant wave roars up higher and higher and thrashes on–  Two dolphins, fins, flanks churning the current.  We stare at their passing, seething to the sea.

The sky bleeds out its bruise; salt marshes swell and darken the tide.  Trudging off with their catch, my sons are quieter now; as the night falls  about us quick and black, I tell them again

a history we can’t take back.

The Last Incantations (Northwestern University Press), 2014

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