so we settle on this
sacred swamp
the newest land
the weakest land
this brackish backfill clot
and hemorrhage
into open water

in the parlance of Atlantis
this could be
a map or a mop
this St. Claude block
the way the evening slurps
the traffic and tides
and termites together
the way the rubble
heaves and sinks in
echoes into the gulf

my people
settle hers
unsubtle heirs to this
bombed-out boulevard
on the edge of the oily
we descend on white latitudes
into the valley of the shadow of
the Industrial Canal levee
wrap our claims in prayer flags
and banana patches
oil our iron horses
and moisturize our neck tattoos

Konkababy shrugs
her Greco-Roman shoulders
and picks her grin with
a phrenologist's calipers
she sips chronotope splosions
and fingers this razor rhizome
with an adumbrated gaze

she calls me a crypto-fascist
or mission creep
says she should have spected
             some-thin-wrong from
             the ghost cypress spokes
             and man-grove bones where
             the backatown bayou used to be
says she should have sassinated
me first thing

since the storm she says it
takes her ten hours
to get six of sleep
cause something in her stays
             that's why the weekends
             and evenings pool
             in the same skull hollows
             the persistent tug of melody
slips through her sleep
             like a cowrie scream or one white
             elephant calling another
             the subsonic suck of river
             rocks knocking
in the headwaters of hurt

still she says she could
             cohere in it
this green dot mirage
this kudzu patch
this barrier island
between the downtown gentry
and the decanter of the southern sea

sacrifice zone

so she steps out on shallow water
steps out on pneumonic song
she steps out neck first through this
nervous coalition of light

among the corbels and cowbells
bucket-beaten bamboola
compound raptures and breech-loaded
finger bones she sings
             shoo fly
             don't bother me!
I step out on sallow soul
             shoo fly
             don't bother me!
her soft-boiled body
glazed in surface tension
             shoo fly
             don't bother me!
she scrapes her machete
through the pressured-treated evening
shoo fly
don't bother me!

born out on a boil order
             don't bother me!
she says the blue note
             is the sound of the silt
             digging its heels in all the way
             down the delta

says it coalesces here
as Louisiana
             this last floret of skin
             tearing off into the oily abyss

             shoo fly
in her song—like the gulf
a dialect of the sea—I hear the
earth's accretions eaten
beneath me
             shoo fly
             don't bother me!

Spree MacDonald lives in New Orleans and is the Chair of the Humanities Department at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. His poetry has been previously published in South Africa, the USA, and the UK, and was nominated for a 2014 Pushcart Prize. His essays on Africana literary and cultural studies have also been published in journals and edited books throughout the world.