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A family trip to Florida. Seven days
of strip malls and sprawling department stores,
exurbs enclosed in faux-stucco walls,
filled with ranch-style houses without
cattle in their half-acre yards.
Instead, swimming pools studded the land
like shimmering rhinestones reeking of chlorine.
Some small relief came from the rows
of pagoda-shaped slash pines and turbaned palms,
ponds brimming with small-mouth
bass, drainage canals sundering one
cluster of residences from the next—
from which alligators periodically
emerged to creep after banished prey
and terrify the snowbirds.
The brightest time was the ferry ride
through a surviving mangrove swamp:
rising out of standing water,
the close growth of rubbery elliptical leaves
hosted huge pastel-blue herons scanning
the shaded shallows motionless, biding time
for starfish or tarpon to poke out from among
the bending, tubular roots, interwoven
to better hold their soaked ground.
Later, a friend would compliment me
for stitching mentions of the ferry
across the essay reflecting my journey
to sew its parts together tight.
They were also a ripple skimming through;
first Florida twisted, tangled
my roots to cling to Greenbelt’s simpler milieu
like mangroves’, but this began to make them more
flexible and my art more fluid
like the floor of the forest its mangroves made home.