I shoveled out the embers and turned on

my ceiling fan this winter.  Wind blows wet

like wassail here, dense like pudding yearlong:

wrapping me well, keeping me flushed and fat

enough without puffed, white fluff.  You adore

Vermont, not me:  that sweet sap from tapped wood

neither stubborn like the scrubby pine’s, nor

slow and sulphured like milled cane, but I could

ice for you if you let me, December.

Rest your weight on my ample doublewides,

stop time for catfish, and blanket over

my crooked cypress knees.  My swamps are dyed

in a strong, black wine thick with ghosts.  Freeze them.

Let me give you that muddy, haunted gem.


Rhonda Lott's work has appeared or is forthcoming in Hayden's Ferry Review, The Los Angeles Review, Cream City Review, The Southern Humanities Review, and others. She received her master's in creative writing from the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi; she is currently a doctoral candidate at Texas Tech University. She also serves as an associate editor and artist-in-residence for Stirring: A Literary Collection.

I grew up in a small town near the Mississippi Gulf Coast where snow was rare, and white Christmases were mythical.  As a child, I longed for the one horse open sleighs and winter wonderlands of New England the way lonely adults long for lovers they lost or never had.  From the rickety blues joints of the Delta to the hurricane-ravaged tree stumps along the beach that have since been carved into marine life, the scenery of Mississippi is emblematic for me of the beauty of a strength that can only come from a painful history of loss.  Regarding the last three lines, there is a cypress swamp along the Natchez Trace with a sign that claims it is alive with spirits—those of slaves and their masters, in my mind.  What exquisite irony I thought it would be if the water, onyx-colored from tannins, and all of its ghosts froze solid into a lover’s gift to the world.



Copyright 2009