The swamp claws its way through the mud. Water moccasin waking late in the winter’s artful sun. Hiding in the putrid belly of the forsaken shade of the brown-haired trees, he lay gazing. He sees in black and white. Stalking prey with a proud skinny neck and blockish head, he hunts.
Choctaw child, feet raw from walking, they sink in the shallow brackish water of the Bayou. The underbelly of the swamp is thick and buries her boney ankle as her soul hollers a fearful song. Pulling her shrimp and fishnet close, like a babe to breast, she seals the smell of her succulent catch. Vegetation swallowing half-eaten creatures torn by gators, which display the leftover putrefying flesh like trophies under logs. A gator turns summersaults in the napping waters, jaws resting playfully. Suddenly an egret quickly lands in a low-hanging cypress, and the gator’s four hearts begin to pump with exhilaration. White herons glide in lacy patterns through the songs of the cypress, kissing indigo-crimson sky and resting in the arms of the one-hundred-year-old limbs with her hive-shaped knees. Trees gasp for air in the blood-soaked land of the thick haze of stinging mosquitoes. The Louisiana Bayou floats home to the Atakapa-Ishak water village, and her boats provide travel amid her scar-faced stories.
Historical Note from Joni: This prose was written to honor Peter and Gordon, who escaped from a plantation close to the Mississippi River to join the Union Army during the Civil War. Gordon had to survive ten days running while rubbing the scent of onions he had placed in his pockets taken from the plantation. This kept the bloodhounds confused while tracking him. After forty miles of hiding and making his way through creeks and swamps, he found the Union Army. Gordon had his photograph taken to show the horrific scars on his back. Harper magazine covered the story and published it on December 23, 1863, including a photograph called “The Scourged Back.” He then became a scout for the army and was later captured by the Confederates, beaten, and left for dead. Again, he survived and rejoined the Union Army. Black soldiers played a significant part in helping to defeat the Confederacy. There were more than 180,000 black troops. That famous picture circulated throughout the United States and became a symbol for abolishing slavery.
To read more or see the original photograph go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_(slave)
Joni is an internationally known and published poet, photographer, and author. She is a co-author of the Amazon #1 bestselling poetry anthology “Wounds I Healed: The Poetry of Strong Women”, and the upcoming poetry anthology, “Hidden in Childhood” to be released late January 2023 by Literary Revelations. She is a regular contributor to MasticadoresIndia and a regular contributor to MasticadoresUSA and Spillwords Press NYC, where she has been twice nominated and won Publication of the Month for, “Love Me Like a Luna”, (November 2022). As a surviving Adult Child of Alcoholics (ACOA), Joni’s blog is Rum and Robots and her complete list of books, anthologies, magazines and contests can be found at Joni Caggiano’s Publications. Joni’s blog is an effort to help other ACOAs through faith and a strong kinship with nature. Joni is also a retired nurse.
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