Spleen, Ole Miss, Late August

But I don’t despise the cheerleaders
at practice in the Grove,
who leap and balance
on their partners’ upturned palms,
calf muscles trembling, lifting up,
up, on tiptoe. Nor the kids
driving by, I like how they signal hi,
one finger lifted from the steering wheels
of gas-guzzlers loaded
with the summer’s boxes.
Nor the girls on Sorority Row
running from one of the houses,
waving their arms like Bacchantes
in a badly acted play­–
they jump and scream
and clap their hands in a big
orchestrated semicircle,
because aunts and mothers and teachers,
grandmas and nanas and preachers
told them this
is what happiness looks like.

This summer, unannounced,
the Army Corps of Engineers
drained and paved
the bayou at the end of College Hill,
expanding the airport for football weekends.
They lost the herons, destroyed the places
where turtles could slither
down cool, piney banks
past crayfish towers and cypress stobs
into a murky lake where in spring
their babies would sit on fallen branches
like capgun caps,
nubbins nearly invisible
until pop pop pop pop pop
slow then faster they hit the lake
as they hear you coming.

Oh yeah? Bummer, I hear these students say.

As I pass the crowd of girls
I look for one
who knows she’s faking it,
who’s counting the days
till she quits.
She already longs
for the vanishing places
where, speckled with light, she can wait,
alive in every cell to solitude,
completely attentive to the water.

– ann fisher-wirth


"Spleen" was published in Stories from the Blue Moon Café IV, edited by Sonny Brewer and Joe Formichella (2005).