Cordelia Hanemann, Elegy to a Bald Cypress

Cordelia Hanemann
ELEGY TO A BALD CYPRESS

i
Going home is not what it used to be.
Acadiana: home, heat, hum of hungry mosquitoes.

Lake Martin, where love began:
sultry Louisiana summer,
huge bald cypress, green and lush,
its night shadow enticing in moonlight.
Catfish, dangling on trotlines,
fastened to mangles of muddy vines,
lured, seized, stripped, filleted
and fried over an open fire.
Tangles of legs
on Grandma’s frayed
cotton quilt.

ii
Pilgrimage is a empty ritual:
23 years wed; now the divorce is final.
The old bald cypress is dead,
which we’d thought would live forever,
now a large woody arm rising out
of the mist, fracturing the lead sky.

iii
No egrets circle our once bold
cypress monument;
no trotlines hang
from moonlit vines;
hyacinths choke the lake
to quagmire.

Scuds of clouds scavenge light;
sultry heat sucks out air;
lust of mosquitoes
pierces unsuspecting skin,
each kiss, a tithe to love’s demise.

Author’s Comment: What I tried to capture in the poem is the feel for place–and the loneliness of no longer belonging to that place, where life and love began. As we move through time, we change, things change. The poem is part autobiography and part meditation and all muse-driven. I am from Louisiana in an oblique way and always, when I go back there, want to connect and to belong. The lake itself is a life-force where love begins: love of life, of adventure, of place, of a boy and a girl/ man and woman, of time and memory, of story….Going back is always filled with expectations but disappoints because we can’t go back and what we remember is perhaps a fiction worth preserving, or is too painful.

Bio: A native of Southwest Louisiana, but the daughter of an army officer and diplomat, Cordelia Hanemann has lived in Japan and London as well as in the US. She earned a PhD from LSU with a dissertation on the language of contemporary poetry and developed a career as a university professor. Her work has appeared in numerous journals, including Southwest Review and Third Wednesday Magazine; anthologies, most recently The Sound of Poets Cooking and up-coming, The Well-Versed Reader; and in her chapbook, Through a Glass Darkly. She is currently the featured poet for Negative Capability Press, and The Strand Project recently presented a monologue she wrote for performance. Hanemann is currently a practicing artist and writer in Raleigh, North Carolina and is working on a first novel about her roots in Cajun Louisiana.

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