Five Poems by Peach Delphine

Naval Stores

At the park people picnic
beneath cat face pines,
after a rain the shards of herty cups,
occasionally chert shaped to some cutting tool,
washes out,
layers upon layers, not yet
scraped away for condos
and golf courses.
Granny’s momma
extolled the virtues of turpentine
the only medicine of her childhood,
next to whiskey, cane syrup
and red pepper pods,
if you wrapped in a flannel
doused with the stuff it might cure
a cough, or a gunshot
perhaps a snakebite.
Pawpaw showed me a catface
explained how they cut the trees
bled them out
into terra cotta cups
then into barrels, then stills,
as to what it was
he said,
        Turpentine is the sweat
of men, first there were slaves, then prisoners, sold for labor.

A tree may not be
just a tree. A cut is not just a cut,
learn the purpose.
Slowly you begin to acknowledge
what you suspected, that the kindly
old folks of your childhood
might have picnicked at a lynching.
The might have
being just enough uncertainty
to taint every recollection,
a venom that cannot be cut
from the flesh
like a snakebite,
a darkness no day will ever
drive out,
a horizon that will not shift,
a smoke that rises unanswered,
a remorseless sky,
where memory is not weather
and lighting is not the anguish
of a land soaked in suffering


Wind swinging pines
by their tops
palms shedding fronds,
does the heart of pine beat faster,
does it summon up roots for walking
limbs for flight?
Psalms for the damaged,
lamps of the night bound,
no cutting this evening,
the seams of this form
remain intact
sleeves fluttering
in a remorseless wind.
Is it iron buried beneath us,
or the unrequited dead,
that makes this compass swing
so wildly?
Pine and wiregrass
cypress and oak
palmetto and fern,
there is a singing from within shade,
voice of the relentlessly eradicated,
an aquifer welling up,
dark song of flowers,
a rejection of stillness,
a rejection of silence.
We sleep by the river,
beneath moss and oak
windows of dream nailed shut,
we sleep in the mother tongue,
we sleep in the ash
of what was once another terrain,
what the mechanical blade has done to the land,
we have done to our own flesh,
in the dark
clock breathes amber,
you breath as slow and deep as river.
Wind is a summoning,
wind is a dark wave
stumbling through the mangrove,
we sleep in the shadow
of atonement, we sleep in the day
as if night will never end,
we eat bitter, we eat sand
we eat the bones of our ancestors, desperate to expel
the poison blooming in every room
of this derelict house,
we kneel in the doorway
we kneel before the wind,
so many leaves of trees we will never see
filling our emptiness

Transitional Landscape

Echoing darkness
echoing absence,
my shin split open
climbing the water tower,
from this elevation night
stretches out, Gulf without horizon, darker than blood
in my sneaker,
looking over the railing, wind in my hair,
ready to glide into the pine tops, but for gravity.
Sometimes we would stand
at the tide mark
feeling the same summoning
of weight, of the fall
through spectrum into lightless
depths. We learned
to carry grief like a blade,
grasp it by the spine, thumb
on the handle, carry anger
with our dry towels,
stack our prayers with fatwood of remorse
a crib of kindling,
let cloud and osprey decipher that smoke.
We learned to name our scars
after rivers and creeks,
delicate cartography of sorrow,
we learned to navigate without compass or clock.
We received the winter birds,
nailed together a skiff
to carry us up the coast,
abandoned habitation,
lived with the herons and egrets,
filled insomnia with wind, star
and salt marsh, memorized
oyster beds, recited the litany
of tides, forgot roof and door,
forgot even our innermost names,
held all our conversation with waves and the small crabs
amongst the shells, the estuary
allows that space,
the edge of descent, the swallowing current,
the dissipation of old certainties,
the creation of new land, soggy
midge ridden, mosquito filled,
there can be no departure
from such a place, your absence
a chart marker of the immensity
of such a tiny world, of the narrow space
between wind and darkness

Of Smoke, of shell

Alone, you
of smoke, of shell
of sand, ankle deep
bone white beneath pine straw,
beneath writhing trunks of palmetto.
Smoke of tongue flowering, pines emblazoned by fire,
lightning defines flatwoods
burning, burning, ash defines us,
cinder the sound of our footsteps.
Without knowing wind, without cabbage palm
shrouded, rain heavy,
without your absence
what weather would hold me,
what cloud shield me
from relentless sun,
without your hands of pine
would oranges be peeled
in a continuous spiral,
how would we taste whiskey,
cigar, coffee dark as river.
Alone, you
having embraced this form
laid me down on a bed of wiregrass and fern,
mapped such scars
contour lines, elevations and descent,
the measure of your breath,
passage of your hands,
barred owls calling us into night.
Beyond the river are magnolia
blossoming white wax,
beyond the river, oaks ancient,
cypress even older, beyond the river, you
smoke of tongue, flame of word,
this form may not cross those waters,
darker than coffee
stronger than whiskey,
wind of ash, cinder of day,
alone amongst the living
you fill my eyes with sound of shorebirds, wind of ibis,
sky of swallow-tailed kite
effortless flight, relentless smoke
unanswered, voiceless

Further Shore

Hands of smoke
chert words flaking
from the tongue, gritty
against the pale teeth.
Hands of splitting
our days growing ever narrower
this is the form
whittled from driftwood
and left at the tide mark,
eyes of shell
hair of grass
so much that is brittle
manifests in flesh
sinew and gristle.
We return to the fluid
we return to the salt
there is a window in the mouth
where sea remains visible
curling along the tongue,
waves steadily eroding
the old form, subsidence
being a return to the greater body,
conch and whelk
so many shells buried
in the turtle grass of our sleep.
There is a current
the cownose rays ride
by the thousands, a vast
migration of necessity
from the further shore
undulating and rhythmic,
there is such a journey
buried beneath the sternum
to traverse the coast
with no horizon in the eye
to swim and seek
to arrive without harm
to carry some love
from there to here
to redeem the smallest of words
to fill such emptiness
that would deny
that we are
such as we are

Peach Delphine @PeachDelphine was born in Tampa. She attended one year of college where she met Duane Locke, cooked across the southeast, and struggled with depression. She has a deep love of the Gulf Coast and the music of Duke Ellington. Her work is published in journals including Pulp Poets Press, Fevers of the Mind,

Banner Image by Robert Frede Kenter.

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