by Wendi White

At times I glimpse their shadows shifting
between the trees shorn of leaves.
Befeathered, bemused, they wait
and watch. Four hundred years later
in the half light of solstice, they waver
on the shores of the James, the Layfayette,
the Elizabeth to see if tassantassas* still squat
upon the land, if the intruders have enough corn
to last one more winter, if they will survive until the dogwoods
sugar the forest with drifts of white and pink once more.

Chickahominy, Nansemond, Mattaponi, Keoghattan,
ghosts conquered but not cowed by the coal trains
that carve their fields, cars that clog rude highways,
landfills that disgorge TVs into the tidewater.

At each new moon, ever-present though erased,
the rivers rise higher and manicured lawns erode
by inches while perfectly pruned boxwoods shrivel
at the touch of creeping brine. Waterfront property
plummets while Virginia’s gentlemen pour their last
round of fine whiskey only plunder could afford.

The scouts appraise the strangers’ waning strength.
They report to Powhattan whose imperial dreams
lacked the English King's scope, but nonetheless
were granted some acreage in history. “Be patient,
Great Chief. Here the strangers first made land
but here they sink in the mudflats; they fall back to the sea.”

*Tassantassas- Algonquian word for stranger used to describe the Jamestown settlers
Wendi White is a poet and provocateur currently musing among the herons and egrets of Coastal Virginia’s tidewater region. She recently earned her MFA from Old Dominion University and her day job has her mentoring students at ODU’s Women’s Center. At home she keeps one husband, two sons, a garden where the tomatoes abound every other year, and too many books to count.
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About barkingsycamores 183 Articles
Barking Sycamores is a literary journal entirely edited and operated by queer neurodivergent people of color. We publish poetry, artwork, short fiction (beginning with Issue 3), creative nonfiction (beginning with Issue 8), and hybrid genre work (beginning with Issue 9) by emerging and established neurodivergent writers as well as essays on neurodiversity and literature and book reviews (beginning with Issue 10).

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