May 24, 2011

Notebook: Early Pastoral

Written by Amanda Auchter

Read by Alison Pelegrin

— New Orleans, 1718

We are approaching the marshweed and sycamore, the gnarled low
trees and cypress.    For weeks the boat has rocked us, a nauseous
lullaby. The days have slipped through our bodies with the sound of
sea swells, the rain and its humid-talk.      The land opens before us:
the first point of green.       Here is the beginning of a house: lumber
ships untether their long pale beams. Here is the mouth of the river,
its arterial flow.             We are approaching the lowlands, the docks.
We watch the shoreline near: a man waves his arms in the air.     For
weeks we have imagined what we will come to, what land will claim
us.            For weeks, we have talked of gold streets and haystacks,
pockets heavy with coins.     We never imagined so much water, the
stench of bodies led away                          in chains.  The mosquito-
darkened sky. We watch the town open and open.  The first glint of
light, smoke. Soon we are standing on the shore and the heat stuns
us.              We watch a man lead away another man by his shackled
neck until we cannot see him.  So many bodies.  A woman stands in
the coal-dusk, waving goodbye.       Her skin soot-bright in the dark
rising tide.  How much we wanted this: the sky’s blue bowl, our lives
stripped clean.      White oak.      Magnolia bark.      The docked ship.

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