Slumbering Savannah by Joni Caggiano

A black and white pencil sketch of an unwell colored African man on straw being barely held up by another man
Image Source: Canva Pro

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 CAGGIANO

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.

You can also read her writing on Instagram @jonicaggiano and Twitter @theinnerchild1.

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18 Comments Add yours

  1. Terveen Gill says:

    Joni’s poetry presents a dangerous atmosphere of hunter and prey. The reader is pulled into the chilling silence with only nature’s sounds resonating, the natural ways of the world ensuring their supremacy. The weak and the powerful, the oppressed and the oppressor, a bond that lasts till either isn’t dismissed. The hardships, the suffering, the resilience to live and die many times before actual death. When will humankind realize that they are gradually destroying themselves?
    Congratulations Joni!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. jonicaggiano says:

    Thank you so much Terveen for your words. They cut to the bone and can’t be more true. When will we learn that truly is a question that if not answered may will be the end to us! Thank you for this publication and all your hard work. Blessings, Joni

    Liked by 3 people

  3. michnavs says:

    This is a beautiful piece of litetature Joni. I echo the thoughts of Terveen.

    You are a brilliant story teller…i am always in awe reading your stories.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. jonicaggiano says:

      Dear Mich, thank you so much for your kind comment. Terveen’s comment’s are always so thorough it is sometimes hard to think of something else to say. I hope you are having a blessed day . Thank you so much for reading me here. Hugs, Joni

      Liked by 3 people

      1. michnavs says:

        I agree with you about Terveen..she always amazes me too with her commentary🌹

        Liked by 3 people

        1. jonicaggiano says:

          I know it is true Mich. She has an uncanny way to read and explain so much about everyone’s writing. Sending hugs Mich!

          Liked by 2 people

  4. Meelosmom says:

    Joni, such a beautiful prose poem that captures the slumbering rhythm of Savannah’s beauty and natural forces.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. jonicaggiano says:

      Hi Barbara thank you very much for reading. It is a beautiful place and reminds me of a place called Magnolia Plantation in Charleston, SC. It too, has the most beautiful marshlands full of egrets and gorgeous flowers. Hope you have a blessed day, hugs, Joni

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Meelosmom says:

        You, too, dear Joni!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. jonicaggiano says:

          Thank you so much Barbara, Big hugs and blessings, Joni

          Liked by 2 people

        2. Meelosmom says:

          ✨♥️🌺🌹🌷✨

          Liked by 2 people

  5. Beautiful poetic prose, Joni!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. jonicaggiano says:

      Thank you so much Dawn. I really appreciate your reading me here and your kind words. Hope your week is full of blessings. Big hugs, Joni

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Mike U. says:

    This is truly good, immersive writing. The sense of place is so vivid, and the atmosphere of danger is thick and cloying. I lived in Louisiana for a while and I recall my first visit to Dorcheat Bayou on a canoe outing with my landlord. I was sort of terrified as I’d never been on the bayou or in a canoe before (and I can’t swim), but it was such an intriguing experience (no gators or water moccasins that morning, thankfully). The story of Gordon is both horrific and heroic. The photo you linked to is a reminder of the monstrous inhumanity of man. Your talent is boundless, Joni. This is amazing stuff. Well done, my friend. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jonicaggiano says:

      Mike I am so glad I checked to see if there were any new comments as this one is certainly gracious. I am so glad that it moved you the way it did and also brought back a memory. I appreciate you reading the history too as Gordon did not know his last name if I am remembering correctly but his story is the very definition of immense bravery. I can understand why you were a bit afraid at first in that canoe, as I can swim under water but never learned to swim on top of the water. I completely agree with what you said about the “monstrous inhumanity of man,” so very true. An average alligator is around thirteen feet long and weighs 790 lbs according to wiki. They get much bigger. Can you imagine running in that swamp for 10 days? When I think of the way black men, women and children were treated I am utterly disgusted in every way imaginable. I find it very hard to imagine being in a canoe in the bayou. You are much braver than I am. Thank you again for your very kind comment and I am very glad that you enjoyed reading both the piece and the history of this amazing hero. Have a blessed Sunday, my friend. Big hugs, Joni

      Liked by 2 people

  7. 13rrance says:

    It’s very powerful in imagery, the decay, the smell lingering, death abound.

    Congratulation Joni, your write is very anchored in reality.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. jonicaggiano says:

    How wonderful to see you here my friend. Thank you so much for the extremely kind commend. I missed you at the interview last night for the book release. This book is going to be something else. I look forward to reading your work in “Hidden in Childhood.” Blessings my friend and hope you are having a wonderful Sunday. I am looking forward to doing some reading in that venue later today. Sending you big hugs, and appreciation. xoxoxoxo

    Liked by 1 person

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