April 4, 2014
The Portage at the Carrying Place

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)

bio photo

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!

Posted In: Poetry

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