Your moment of Everglades Zen: “Creatures of Mud and Starlight”
Photo by Anthony Sleiman.
You’ve probably heard us sing the praises of our first-ever Karen Mashburn Environmental Scholar recipient, Autumn Bryan. During her time as a Friends of the Everglades intern, Autumn provided invaluable contributions to our Young Friends program, which included her leadership in the launch of our new Library Learning Kits.
The Library Learning Kits, available in Martin, Palm Beach, and Broward County libraries, include Marjory Saves the Everglades by Sandra Neil Wallace, animal figures, and lessons for children. They are made all the more inspiring with the addition of original poetry by Autumn. Her poems narrate the unique wonder and beauty of the Everglades, celebrating its creatures large and small, in a lyrical voice that is reminiscent of our founder Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ reflections on the Everglades. Autumn’s efforts on the library kits motivated her to expand her Everglades-inspired writing to include longer-form poems. Below we offer samples of Autumn’s work for your enjoyment.
Creatures of Mud and Starlight
Sea turtles, round as rain barrels – An endless chorus of cypress – Ibis, their wings flapping like a thousand silken ribbons, migrating from one end of the marsh, escaping harsher tides and fiercer flight – Their invincible presence astounds, through the verdant grasses, seen and unseen, creatures, veiled in shadow, dotting the boundless green sing a symphony of mud and starlight.
Dawn wakes and drapes its wings across the horizon, bears brilliant light along the many rivers, flowing in diverse and oscillating sloughs. A mosaic of color escapes the swamp, charades among the tall grasses of saw. Adorned in vast stretches of green, the wetland labyrinthspast alligator holes. A buffet of wildlife hides amid the shade and shallow. Currents roar at a whisper, shielding the crocodilian war from a lazing display of amphibians. A snake bird preys its way beyond the flora and fauna, speaks and dips its beak into the pastel reflection of the water, alight with all that golden kaleidoscope of awe.
This is the Kingdom of Crawl
Housed in sawgrass and all but swallowed up by swampy peat, near defeated, the glade growls back and licks its wounds. This is the land of the panther. This is the Kingdom of Crawl. The sprawling river speaks species into mud, birthing a hierarchy of fangs and jaws.
Ibis starling a sky of startling light, grow wary of raptors and land amid the brush. Other wading shades flock about the cypress, shadow the cloudless blue, that shocking pink aflight. This is the Kingdom of Wind and Feather, of mighty winged swells.
This is the land of many rivers. The land of bears and alligators and snakes. A vibrant culture of people and a shocking story of beasts habit here. The Everglades paints the shape of their ancestors into the swaying palms, whistles songs of their strength into the water.
Anhinga anhinga, coiled, striking, with a silver fin captured within its dagger-like beak, harkens a storm. Herons and egrets commune, sing a harmony of glades, serene and ever-flowing. The anhinga wades languid, indulging in the sacred offerings of mud and moor. Lifting into the rafters of windward swell, the slither of feathers disembarks for harbor. The snake bird’s silhouette against the wetland, like oil on canvas, keeps hold of its secret flight. Wings spread wide, welcoming the coming warmth, Anhinga darts forward in search of another fish.
Great blue heron, green heron, gold
bejeweled, like angels,
feather boldly amid the swamp,
call home to a paradise of waters.
Ibises and egrets and owls,
that great blue spearheading the siege
fill me to the brink of joy,
to the brink of fear.
Revered in light, and swathed in seawind,
the heron’s wings spread wide,
welcoming the other feathered gods
frolicking amid the pads of spatterdock,
blessing the holy sentinels of light.
Storks and kites and spoonbills
test the stock of their beaks, their flight,
flock the miracle of blue.