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Alberta Clipper 3/3/15: "Florida" by Nicole Cuddeback

Florida State Map 1845

The winter of 1998 is said to have been one of the worst winters in Nebraska. For example, on this day that year—as Prairie Schooner launched our Spring Issue—it was a balmy 29 degrees in the Nebraskan capitol, and it was snowing. It goes without saying that residents in Lincoln were wistfully thinking about heading south during those cold times. Somewhere nice and warm. A state like Florida. In fact, Florida became a state on this day in 1845. Though some at the time believed that Florida should be split into two different states, West Florida and East Florida, the territory was admitted to the United States as a single state.  Congress and President Tyler agreed to welcome Florida and its wonderful weather as the twenty-seventh state of the Union on March 3, 1845.

Nicole Cuddeback’s poem dedicated to the “Sunshine” state was published in Prairie Schooner Spring 1998. Her poem titled Florida creates a collage of images that perfectly express the warmth and all-around daydream worthiness of Florida, the twenty-seventh state. —Dani Kerr

Nicole Cuddeback
Florida

Melaleuca, Brazilian pepper, cabbage palm, Australian pine.
Rock oyster, bleeding tooth, banded tulip, pelican foot, coquina,

lightening whelk. Teeth of tiger and lemon shark, black in the loss
of fifteen million years. Home. Dawn-lit tendrils curling through

the iron mesh of a just-placed garden chair. Stand and sink
in the moist, haired ferns, mud. And there are hills – that don’t quite fit

like cypress knees heartened out like burial mounds, lumps in throats,
brief gashings of azalea through the low dips of wadded magnolias,

the crack in a word thought calm. Water, wind – but inland among
the little Etrurias, Rosewoods, cracked parking lots: something

swells the flat. Dirt’s response to tears? Hot weeds bent above overturned
bowls, giant ghoul bellies of brim. Who accounts for the spilled, swallowed,

for me evolved to this? One finger hung in the warm water, stuck
with knife groves of buzzing and palmetto, molten noons, the swim

on the distant pavement, evenings of lizard’s neon throats cast full,
gone in a wave, and always the heat, even in the foam that won’t

come in, on waves grimy jade ten orange as signs on closed roads,
finally black around the one crease drained by the moon –  mounds both steadfast

and shifting: not mine, mine, the shame finger cooling, going out, always pointing off
where the wilderness of the ocean meets the smaller void of the gulf.

Prairie Schooner, Vol. 72, No. 1 (Spring 1998)


The Alberta Clipper is a biweekly gust of history—brushing the dust off of a poem from our archives and situating it in the current events and local Nebraskan weather reports of days gone by. Explore the Alberta Clipper archives here.

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