There were no roads
and so rivers were the easier way to go
when they were deep from the flow
of fresh rain in spring and fall.
For a few weeks every year, a canoe could carry
pelts and guns, beads and knives
over high fast water
without rapids and riffs to tangle with.
There was the portage at the carrying place
between the Miami and the Ouabache
and plentiful rains made these rivers swell
over this higher land
and so they carried canoes and goods
on their backs for only a few miles.
There were rattlesnakes five feet long
and bee trees pocketed with golden combs.
Men died of malaria and snake venom here.
They could kill the old snakes
but the mosquitoes were sure to bite
and still, it was here,
that a man with honey on his lips
was lulled to sleep by muttering thunder
and rain pattering on tent canvas
and it was here, among wild hemp
and the white flash of sycamore in blue sky and sun,
fog lifting through the trees like wool being carded,
that he woke,
and declared himself to be
in some of the world’s finest country,
licking into each word
a wild, lingering sweetness.
-Liza Hyatt (Marion County)
Liza Hyatt, from Indianapolis, art therapist (IU Health) and adjunct professor (Herron and St.-Mary-of-the Woods.) Author of Under My Skin (Wordtech Editions, 2012); Stories Made of World (Finishing Line Press, 2013); and The Mother Poems (Chatterhouse Press, publication in process).
Indiana Humanities is celebrating National Poetry Month by sharing a poem from an Indiana poet every day in April (hand-selected by Indiana Poet Laureate George Kalamaras). Check in daily to see who is featured next!