Bio Note: I am a Professor of Animal Ecology at the University of Georgia. I enjoy poetry, running, fishing, gardening, singing/songwriting and stone carving.
Something moves on the sidewalk, writhing, like butter across a red-hot griddle, while post-storm steam swirls upwards like the gyre of turkey vultures riding the August- afternoon thermals. The worm turned left not right, and now lies on a concrete stove-top, rather than lounging in the rain-drop bower of zoysia grass. A “lower” creature, I know. Non- sentient—no real nervous system, but clearly in distress. Darwin would let fate play leading man— not me. Sliding a fish hook through their coelom I don’t cringe—there is purpose in that pain, but here there is none. I sigh and use thumb and index finger to pitch the worm far onto the wet grass. Today’s jog will be spent saving worms— bending from the waist is a good stretch.
The last decade brought a pair of Mississippi Kites to our back yard. They nested in ’13 and ‘14 until the new guy behind us massacred his trees for a McMansion to match his Mercedes dealership. The kites reloed down the block and still soar the yard on alternate Tuesdays and Thursdays, returning from Brazil in May, and winging back in October. These birds give grace—the comfort of a December sunset, or the caress of redbud flowers in March. When I run south, through the open canopy of Lumpkin St., they sometimes circle just above me—their broad wings and delta tail speak of angels, and discovery of the Sabbath to be found in every day.
Progress, St. George Island, June
7:23 am and the morning sun pries sweat from scalp and forehead, a saline bath, poor-man’s spa, it runs into my eyes and stings almost as much as seeing new subdivided lots only 92 yards from the high tide line. They’ve been dozed, but indigenous plants say “not so fast”, and even some sand pines are left, to karate chop the breeze. Beach sunflowers match the chrome-yellow, eastern orb—every name has a maritime preface here in the Eastern Panhandle, from random clumps of sea oats that resemble Dad’s scalp after chemo, to the white trumpets of beach morning glories trying to climb the laid PVC sewer lines sticking up through sugar-sand like the tips of a fossilized plesiosaur that crawled up on the beach to die, but these “bones” presage Lexus wagons and sockless loafers. This land is residual, the “forgotten coast”, and many things sport a broken face, especially Gramma Earth—strewn with beer cans and scraggly plastic bags from the Pig. Yesterday, I parked my Highlander next to a Bentley rag-top, oxymoronically sitting at the Dollar Store, which sells produce because food deserts aren’t just in cities. The driver was sheathed in a Red Sox jersey and had one of those chi chi pony tails that looked like the ass-end of a sow in October. His face twisted into a sneer worthy of De Niro as I slowly opened my paint-chipped door, making sure to leave a half-court of air between our vehicles. He was looking at a flyer for beach lots.
©2022 Gary D. Grossman
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