Mudlark No. 58 (2015)

Dixie Highway

Here date and coconut palms lean, row upon row,
propped upright by lengths of cut lumber, survivors
of last year’s hurricanes, bent but straightening out
beside two-lane A1A, what locals call Dixie Highway.  
Floridians have come to terms with sand and sand’s 
ceaseless gypsy blowing.  But an ocean isn’t a thing 
you come to terms with, not ever. The dazzlement 
of the waves says that, regardless of our preparation,
water gets what water wants. Date palms opening
in a flash of color isn’t a thing to be bargained with, 
though the air from off the Atlantic is our history,
an American history, meaning bloody. Wind’s story 
here is the story of slave ships; of war and huge waste.
Way down yonder in the land of cotton, old times there are 
not forgotten—look away, look away... You know the song.  
Here I am making a judgment call about the guilty Rule 
of Law that bends in response to the capricious whims
and ocean sounds in the blood and bones of the few
every day in South Florida, here where the rich enter
oblivious and leave this life ecstatic in their good fortune
while the rest drive A1A across Jupiter Island, and dream.  
I had parents—poor folks, and proud—I’m not crying 
for food like some Sudanese orphan pestered by flies
that swarm around Misfortune like the words of a story.  
And I know the universe isn’t fair: Roads to and from 
all begin, any day, in the country of back-breaking work 
and low pay. I know, too, that in December the beach
at Hobe Sound will empty, pennants signaling swim-
at-your-own-risk snapping and flapping like mad— 
the same wind that spins out the tow and undertow 
washes to shore as light and litter, plastic soda bottles, 
kelp-draped, arrived from God only knows how far.

Roy Bentley | When Billie Holiday Sings about Southern Trees
Contents | Mudlark No. 58 (2015)