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The Blakeley Blog

The Blakeley Blog is a forum for discussion and discovery of the incredible natural and cultural treasures found at Historic Blakeley State Park.

Many of the poems in the Blakeley Blog by Sue Walker appeared in an earlier version in In The Realm of Rivers, published by NewSouth Press in Montgomery Alabama.

July 1, 2017

BLAKELEY
Pvt. Thomas Washington Danner,
29th Illinois Infantry


On the ninth of April, sixty-five,
Long remember’d be the day,
In range of Blakeley’s batteries
General Canby’s forces lay;
They had waded sloughs and marshes,
Been exposed to winds and rain,
Marched o’er concealed torpedoes
This proximity to gain.

For here, within their stronghold,
Dreading an open field,
Had convened Dick Taylor’s forces
To keep us from Mobile;
We tried their works with light guns,
But of these they did make sport,
Saying with such, it would take five years
And six months to take their fort.

Our good General, not wishing
To besiege their works so long,
Gave orders that assault be made
And carry them by storm;
Evening came on—at half past five
Was the appointed time;
Our reserves were then moved to the front,
And forward to battle-line.

Our artillery opened on their works,
Their virtue thought to try,
When they opened their embrasures
And gave us a reply,
Dropping shot and shell around us,
Cutting branches o’er our heads,
While their leaden missiles thick and fast
On deadly errands sped.

Our skirmishers along the line
Engaged them—meanwhile
Our outward line was forming,
Preparing for the trial;
Our batteries then opened,
Using guns both small and large,
And command was given round the lines.

O, it was a glorious sight to see
The gallantry displayed
Along the line of Union forces
When that fearful charge was made;
Dashing forward o’er obstructions,
Breasting a murderous fire
From which troops less determined
In confusion would retire.

Onward, rushing to the muzzle
Of huge death-dealing guns,
Each vying to be foremost,
And cheering as they run;
Mounting the rebel ramparts
With shouts they rend the ari,
And plant the “Emblem of the Free,”
Our glorious colors, there.

Three thousand Southern soldiers
And many heavy guns
Are trophies of the victory
Which this day has been won;
But these fruits of our conquest
Many never lived to see;
They perished in the conflict—
Peace to their memory be.

A tear will glisten in the eye
When comrades shall recite
How they fell amid the fight;
Eighth Illinois! Brave regiment!
Lost heavily to-day,
Being deployed as skirmishers,
They were foremost in the fray.

The Eleventh behaved gallantly,
As is their wont to do;
They understand the business
Of putting rebels through;
The colors of the Old Forty-Sixth,
Borne on despite of ball,
Were among the first that floated
Triumphant o’er the walls.

Nine or ten men of the Seventy-Sixth
Dead on the spot did lay;
The Eighty-Third Ohio
Had two flagstaffs shot away;
The Twentieth Iowa, luckily,
Lost not a single man,
Though early on the rebel works
Their colors took a stand;
Of other troops I can not speak,
Yet know they all fought well—
The story of their valor
Future history will tell,
How at Blakeley, under Andrews,
Carr, Veatch, Garrard, Hawkins, Steele,
They won a victory which gave them
The City of Mobile.

How, upon the 12th, they crossed the bay,
Took possession of the town
And into quiet camp-life
They once more settled down;
Here we will leave them, but I fear
That eyes of softest blue
Will do what Southern armed men
Have essayed in vain to do,
And many, many a Northern maid
May yet deep anguish feel,
Should her lover fall a victim
To some “Fair Rebel” in Mobile.

February 1, 2017

The Battle of Blakeley is one of the most historic aspects of Blakeley State Park. What follows is a “found” poem by Sue Walker based upon an actual letter that the late Judge Charles Hall of Bay Minette, Alabama wrote to President Warren G. Harding, the 29 th President of the United States, in which he said: “General Canby was in command of the Federal Army at Fort Blakely, Alabama. The confederate soldiers surrendered to him April 9, 1865, and my father and I later went to General Canby for food. He gave us a wagon load. My father's plantation was destroyed by the soldiers and we had no food for the family—my mother and brothers and sisters. For many years I have wanted to place a wreath on General Canby's grave. I am now in my sixty-ninth year and I want to place a wreath on his grave before I pass away.” This letter was printed in an Indianapolis paper in 1923 and reprinted in A brief History of Baldwin County by N.J. Newcomb Cumings and Martha M. Albers. (Fairhope, Alabama, March 1928)

INCIDENT OF WAR A LETTER TO PRESIDENT HARDING FROM CHARLES HALL OF BLAKELEY, ALABAMA
(Dedicated to Wesley Byrne, Charles Hall’s great grandson who lives in Mobile, Alabama)
By Sue Brannan Walker,
former Poet Laureate of Alabama


General Canby, courtesy of Library of Congress

Dear President Harding:

General Edward R.S. Canby was in command
of the Federal Army when the Confederates' last stand
in the War Between the States resulted in surrender.

My father's plantation was destroyed, the discomfiture
is beyond, almost, my ability to write.

On the 11 th day of April about 12:00 midnight,
some thirty Federal soldiers trooped to Papa's house
some nine miles from Fort Blakely and did roust him,
sleeping, from his very bed, beat him roundly
on the head and with rifles kicked him sore about.

Mother and children started to cry and shout
as a scowling soldier deigned to take a candle
from Mama's hand. It was too much for her frail frame
to handle, and she fell upon the floor with the babies
in a heap and asked only that the soldier let her keep
her young ones safe from harm whereupon
our dwelling house was set on fire,
making a funeral pyre of it and the cottages nearby.
Our treasures, all are gone, except the apparel
we had on. There was nothing left to wear.

The next day, broken-hearted, his world burned
and with everything destroyed, Papa went straightway
to the fort to scout thereabout, find General Canby
and address him face to face, with dignity
and relay the misfortune that had come to pass.

The general listened, somewhat aghast,
and said he would give our family food to eat,
a wagon load of fruit and meat.

It is time to move beyond fear and hate,
and with resolve, I demonstrate
note that what was done cannot be undone.
I was not then in my sixty-ninth year;
I was only ten and seven months,
but time has passed, and to show
how we should forgive, I stoop
and place a wreath on Canby's grave.

Note: The town was spelled Blakeley after the founder's name. The fort, however, is often misspelled in records from the Civil War as “Blakely” without the last “e.” The town was captured a few hours after the surrender of General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia on April I, 1865.

January 1, 2017

ALPHABETICAL ACCLAIM FOR BLAKELEY STATE PARK: A LEXICON
(An Alphabet poem called an abecedarian.)
By Sue Brannan Walker,
former Poet Laureate of Alabama


photo by Brian Kelso

Absolutely Astounding. Amazing. Alabama's Acclaimed

Blakeley State Park, in the heart of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, this

Comely, cosmotellurian, 1 catholicon 2 celestial chorus, this

Delightful domain of crappie, crow, crocodile, copperhead, cottonmouth, coral snake, coachwhip, William Bartram's favorite species snake, “as innocent as a worm, and almost tame.”

Eagle and egret. Et Hoc Genus Omne. 3

Fiddle-de-dee,” as Miss Scarlett would say, but let's turn to music, to the fly and bumble bee. 4

Gracious Goodness! Get your galoshes on. Even if puddles are on the ground, tour Blakeley,

Hill or hummock—Hi-Ho, Hi Ho. Come on, let's go

Investigate this “small miracle” of land that E.O. Wilson calls a “sanctuary of nature and spirit.” 5

Jactancy 6 is in! Boast and brag. To know this Delta, its history and habitants is to give life value.

Kerlarap, cavort, play. Kaloo Kalay, Oh joyous day! 7

Listen. Is that a loon yodeling? Look. Can you see it?

Meander over to Mound Island with its 18 mounds that rise majestically out of the swamp. 8

Notice now, how in this scrapbook of earth, the press of a deer ' s fleet foot near a fallen leaf.

Observe the Pseudemys Alabamensis, the red-bellied turtle; his real estate, his house, is not for sale.

Pause and imagine how it was in July, 1775 when William Bartram set out in a light canoe and named the flora and fauna. “ What a sylvan scene is here, ” he said.

Quawk. The night heron calls. Such quiddity! 9

Remarkable, the grandeur that is here in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. E.O. Wilson says it is “ not Just a place. It is a living, dynamical system. All of the Delta is alive. . . . 10

Save them, the black bears. Let them sleep warm in winter, secure that the Delta is where they ought to be. Save black bears from extinction.

Two-thirds of the Tensaw River received the highest protective designation by the unanimous vote of the Alabama Environmental Management Commission in 1998.

Understanding Nature, understanding the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, is an aspect of deep ecology that leads to an understanding of the self.

Venture into the sixteen-mile water route that stretches along the Tensaw River. Travel by double-ender or light canoe.

What joy! Why wait? “ Nae man can tether time or tide, ” wrote the poet, Robert Burns. Although the Delta has been around more than 124,00 years, we do not have such a span of time. Now is the hour.

Xenophanes, the philosopher, said that “ better than the strength of men and horses is our wisdom. ” To study Nature is to grow wise. It is our great teacher.

Yes, yesterday is over and gone. Let us say “ Yes to tomorrow and to 2017.

Zwetschenwasser 11 – a double plum brandy to celebrate the Mobile-Tensaw Delta and the Baby New Year.

--

1. catholicom This word means relating to or affecting the earth and sky—think Blakeley.

2. Catholicon is a cure-all – or panacea, a remedy for boredom or the blues. Go to Blakeley State Park.

3. Et Hoc Genus Omne is a phrase that means “And all that sort of thing,” so why use, etc?

4. Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind – but better still, the music of J.W. Elliott:

Fiddle-de-dee, Fiddle-de-dee,
The Fly has married the Bumble Bee,
Says the fly, says he,
"Will you marry me?
And live with me, sweet Bumble Bee?"
Fiddle-de-dee, Fiddle-de-dee,
Oh, I love you, and you love me!

5. From the “Foreword” by Edward O. Wilson, world-renowned entomologist, in In the Realm of Rivers: Alabama's Mobile-Tensaw Delta by Sue Walker and Dennis Holt. Published by NewSouth Press.

6. Jactancy is to brag and boast. Have at it!

7. Kerlarap means to cavort or play, but the word resonates in “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll, but spell Callooh Callay with a K as is our wont.

8. The Bottle Creek Indian mounds were where the Mississippian Indians lived from 1250-1550. They were ceremonial sites, but also served as protective high land during the Delta's spring floods. Jean-Baptiste Le Moyde de Bienville once visited this sacred territory.

9. Quiddity is the essence of something, the whatness of it – or maybe a trifling nicety. Yet one might say, like Peter Bowler that the quiddity of a quiddity is its quirkish, quizzical, quibbling quaintness.

10. From Wilson's “Foreword” to In the Realm of Rivers.

11. Zwetschenwasser – a double brandy to celebrate the Mobile-Tensaw Delta – and 2017.

 

December 1, 2016

A MATTER OF REPETITION
By Sue Brannan Walker,
former Poet Laureate of Alabama


photo by Karen Chiasson

The owl asks “Who?”
asks Who is mocking whom?”
He knows he’s wise
but sometimes finds it hard
to discern when the mocker’s faking.
Perhaps he says he hears Fats Domino
crooning “On Blueberry Hill,” that old sage
remembering how once he found his thrill.

Or is it John Craton’s composition
for the young violinist practicing
pizzicatos, glissandos, and trills?
Native Americans called the mockingbird
“one with four-hundred tongues,”
and it seems all of them are loose
at once when the nesting bird
of the Mimidae family is stirred to fury.

In the Mobile-Tensaw Delta,
when the word is moonstruck
over music warbling the night,
no bird, not even one of the human kind,
need ask “who?” Or question
the rightness of a song.
It is enough to join in
and sing along, sing along
as if the owl and the mockingbird
know more than maybe
humans do about wooing
and loving.

“Who?” Owl asks.
“What’s that song?”
Just the Ross Lynch lyric,
“I Love Christmas”
which in the Delta might go
something like this:
Billion stars are binkin’
A million owls are hootin’
and hundred toot-took-tootin’
“I love Christmas.”

November 1, 2016

This month’s blog is a piece of “flash fiction” by Dr. Walker published on Salt, Ink. It is part of a larger children’s story about two young children visiting Historic Blakeley State Park and their learning about E.O. Wilson, the Park, and its staff, who are synonymous with its ecology and history and making it come alive for young children. The two children in the story are Sue Walker’s two grandchildren, Calliope, age 8 and Hector, age 6—who are enthralled with the history of the park. Calliope went to school to tell her teacher about Blakeley.

THE MEMORY OF LEAVES: CALLIOPE AND HECTOR VISIT BLAKELEY STATE PARK IN THE MOBILE TENSAW DELTA
By Sue Brannan Walker,
former Poet Laureate of Alabama


photo by Blakeley State Park staff

“When you come visit me,” Grandma tells Calliope and Hector, “we’re going to go to Blakeley State Park, and we’re going to walk along the E.O. Wilson Boardwalk and name the trees. We’ll take a little notebook and a glue stick, and you can make a tree book. Just take a leaf and paste it in your book. Then write the name of the tree.”

“When Grandma?” Hector asks.

“Maybe when you get out of school. What do you think of that? Grandpa and I will fly to London, and you can fly back to Alabama with us. We went to New Orleans the last time you came. This time we’ll go to the Delta. Dr. Wilson said he spent the bulk of his boyhood wandering through it.”

“I wandered lonely as a cloud,” Calliope says. She loves to recite poems. “Yes. That’s Wordsworth—and he saw a field of daffodils. Calliope, let me tell you a poem and you see if you can memorize it. It’s a long poem—but here are a few special lines. My favorite is: “To be a tree and read the memory of the leaves.”

“To be a lantern in the darkness
Or an umbrella in a stormy day;
To feel much more than know.
To be the eyes of an eagle, slope of a mountain;
To be a wave understanding the influence of the moon;
To be a tree and read the memory of the leaves;

“Who wrote that?” Calliope asks. “A man named Dejan Stojanovic who was born far away in Pec, Kosovo. He’s a poet and and philosopher. Tell your mummy to google where that is. Can you imagine learning all the countries in the world? It used to be Yugoslavia.” I like to think that all the world is connected.

“I would like to be a wave understanding the moon,” Hector says.

“Well, I think I’ll just be an Alabama pine. Maybe a loblolly pine. Maybe my needles can reach to the moon,” Grandma tells them.

“I want to learn ecology,” Hector says, using a new word he has learned. “I want to learn about rivers.”

“Can we meet Dr. Wilson at Blakeley State Park?” Calliope asks.

“Maybe. It’s possible. He loves the Park.”

“Can we meet Mr. Dejan?” Hector asks.

“Mr. Stojanovic. Can you say his last name? I don’t think we’ll meet him. He lives too far away.”

“We can imagine,” Calliope says. “And we can imagine we’re a pine tree.” She reaches her arms up to the sky.

“I’ll tell you who we can meet. We can meet Jo Ann Flirt. She’s Director of Blakeley State Park. And we can meet Mr. Mike Bunn who is Director of Operations and Assistant Director. He might give you a personal tour.”

“And we can imagine a dragon in a dogwood tree and a Unicorn in an Umbrella Pine” says Grandma.

October 1, 2016

THE NATURE OF PSALM
By Sue Brannan Walker,
former Poet Laureate of Alabama


photo by Blakeley State Park staff

Standing on the back of the Apalachee River
watching crows take to the sky,
it is possible to imagine
having wings. It is possible
to see the marsh
as a shawl wrapped
around a waist waiting
adornment. The moss,
its uncombed hair,
never in need of styling,
brushes against the Delta's
fulsome brow.

Standing on the shore of Chuckfee Bay,
it is possible to forget
calibrations, calculations,
clocks, and watches,
computers, cell phones,
any sort of chronometer,
but yet know continuance
and think of how the heart
keeps its own steady, purposeful beat.

Standing on the bank of Bayou Tallapoosa,
it is possible to believe
how the sound of wind
in cypress crowns
are prevailing psalms,
are chanted celebrations
of a sheened and sheening earth
singing supplejack and muscadine,
willow and wisteria,
ibis and sparrow,
singing salamander and bass,
eagle and otter,
and of human kind,
planted beside rivers
where all who join in communion
give thanks,
give thanks.

 

September 1, 2016

BLAKELEY STATE PARK’S HIDING TREE
By Sue Brannan Walker,
former Poet Laureate of Alabama


photo by Blakeley State Park staff

In the heart of a tree,
as in the heart of a brother,
sister, father, mother,
there is a space for hiding.
When the wood-world is dark
and the wilderness, in wonder,
taunts with things human beings
try to understand, limbs reach out
to embrace the sky. Step out,
pass the time of hiding.
Step out. Beyond;
overhead,
a rainbow waits to show its colors.
The brightest shade is teal.

August 1, 2016

ON A SUMMER’S DAY
By Sue Brannan Walker,
former Poet Laureate of Alabama


photo by Dennis Holt

In the sweet scent of honeysuckle summer,
flies hatch on bayous,
mosquitoes whine. The males
drink nectar from daffodils;
the females seek birds to bite.
The smell of bream beds
cause cautious noses
to twitch. Bullfrogs hrump.
bass strike waiting hooks,
and deer watch
in successful sunlight
the irreducible day.

July 1, 2016

BREATH, WIND, THE MIRACLE OF WHAT HAPPENS
By Sue Brannan Walker,
former Poet Laureate of Alabama


photo by Brody Joe Thomassen

The Mobile-Tensaw Delta knows war-wind,
knows what happens when
the voice of thunder comes loud
from the sky, and the Breathmaker
blows and blows, threatens and blows,
and the pine bend low, almost as low
as the earth – and its needled hair
falls loose on the footpath and the hickory
snaps and is broken – and the oak tries
to stand against whorls unseen
but felt in limb-wrenching dislocation,
the ineffable destroyer and redeemer,
scatters tiny seeds, and bears them
into a wildwood wilderness
where they wait for tomorrow's sunrise
and the warm moist nurturing mud-ground,
primer of life for otter and owl, bobcat
and beetle, spider, and butterfly,
heron lifting one thin leg from settled water,
as Dawn Man and Woman, Blue-Sky Woman
and Twilight Man, are the never-ending
breath of life, All Creation.

June 2, 2016

Loose On The Tongues of Trees:
A Lesson In Survival
By Sue Brannan Walker,
former Poet Laureate of Alabama


photo by Dennis Holt

Standing tall on the edge of tomorrow,
roundly facing it, the same as yesterday,
spring sings the lullabies of leaves,
each one music the sky knows
in bursts of blue and considerations of grey,
the joisting of comely clouds.

Recitations of pines
are ready at hand,
are invitations to take this magic
and sway in the breeze.

Words on the tongues of trees
are etched in its rings
as old as the world is
in its rightness. We learn
our place standing like cypress,
up to our knees in water.

We learn roundness
even in our lumbering,
how the future and the past
are a history we revere
as we stand resilient to storms
the rootedness
of our lives teaching us
what the pine knows:
that being bent is not the same
as being broken.

 

April 25, 2016

Beyond Translation
By Sue Brannan Walker, former Poet Laureate of Alabama

Say cielo, ciel, suty
spirit and breath.
Speak sky
and add what cumulus means
in any tongue. Add the stretch
of a river's blue meandering.
Find solace in the movement
of a marsh, in the reach of trees
peering into water
as it releases reflections.

Delta, run wide,
knowing that Nature has answers
beyond translation

 

March 22, 2016

A Walk Through Blakeley State Park
By Sue Brannan Walker, former Poet Laureate of Alabama


photo by Dennis Holt

Trees in tardigrade motion
enjoy the quidnunc of evening rain
and bear testimony to peace
not known where city busses fume the air
and where planes land and take off and land
and people hurry about, counting hours,
minutes, seconds—too busy to claim
the majesty of trees in their splendor
as they bow to the morning breeze:
sugarberry, celtis laevigata,
of the elm family, its twigs
slender and reddish brown,
its lateral buds tight, appressed
and triangular in shape.

Take a walk through Blakeley State Park;
marvel how trees manage time,
how they know when to berry and blossom,
their leaves waving, dancing, and happy,
patient and content to be where they are
unlike humans who bustle about.

Liquidamber's an exquisite word; say it—
and sweetgum too. Look at the family name:
witch-hazel. It spreads with age
as some people do, but is straight, upright.
Observe the foliage; it knows how to dress.

The landscape of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta
displays r é sum és: the button bush, cephalanthus,
the bald-cypress, taxodium distichum,
persimmon, diospyros virgiana,
and overcup oak, quercus lyrata
of the beech family—its simple leaf,
oblong in shape with variable margins,
and five to nine lobes with irregular sinuses
that never sneeze.

Pastors should preach sermons on trees,
tell how they suffer thunderstorms,
tell of lightening flashes and the dapatical dawn,
Cordial refreshment is offered in woods,
words savored on the tongue:
swamp tupelo, nyssa biflora,
water hickory, carya aquiica,
bluestem palmetto, sabal minor,
swamp dogwood, cornus stricta.
Come with me; let's find them.

The sun touches avid walkers' shoulders,
warms in swirls of light.
If only this peace, these woods,
this swamp, these small moments
of forever could beg forgiveness
for hacking and burning,
there would be no war,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Phone:
251-626-0798

34745 State Hwy 225
P.O. Box 7279
Spanish Fort, AL 36577

E-Mail:
blakeleypark@aol.com