Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Southern Swamp

Southern Swamp

By Joyce Carol Oates

at the top of the skull the sky pours in
white bodiless heat
pours down the length of the body
the planet emerges: water and trees and curious white birds
long-necked like snakes

our blood inches upward
demarcations in the blood correspond
minutely to marks on a thermometer:
shivering upward, up
an unplanetary heat sears
our eyeballs
an image is burned:
long-necked silent white birds
graceful as snakes
silent as if their flesh
were refined to a husk of feathers

falling for decades
through the swamp
you come to no bottom, no rock
the sighing of the palm trees
anxious ceaseless rubbing of their leaves
giant hand-like motions
urge you only to sleep

Prairie Schooner, Vol. 45, No. 3 (Fall 1971), p. 230


Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Medal of Humanities, the National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Book Award, and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction, and has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including the national bestsellers We Were the Mulvaneys, Blonde, which was nominated for the National Book Award, and the New York Times bestsellers The Falls, which won the 2005 Prix Femina, and The Accursed. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978. In 2003 she received the Common Wealth Award for Distinguished Service in Literature, and in 2006 she received the Chicago Tribune Lifetime Achievement Award.

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