In the Valley of the Alapaha


In the Valley of the Alapaha


In the valley of the Alapaha,

East of Enigma and west of Willacoochee,

The parched land slopes down to the humid swamp,

Where tooth and claw contend among shadows of cypress and pine,

And the rancid runoff of the outer world, the phosphates and pesticides,

Mix with steroids in the peat-stained waters, incubating in the warm mud,

Generating ions that react on the living and the dead in ways unpredictable by man.


The slow and turgid waters wend their way to a distant sea.

Buzzards circle above and watch and sing their baleful song,

Aerial witnesses of darwinian struggles in the land below,

Seekers of distress and waiters on the deaths of things.

For it is this, and only this, that gives the buzzard life.


From this place, time streams ever onward,

From an uncertain beginning to an unknowable end,

A river unto itself, carrying away the little lives of flora and fauna alike.

And time is measured by the succession of days, and their punctuating nights.

And always the buzzards watch and wait and glide in their pitiless courses

Above the abodes of man and beast and the dry and yellow grass.


Living and dead, the river carries all, carries all onward,

A simulacrum of time, remorseless and merciless,

Blotting love and hope and tenderness from the record of the ages,

For these live only in human hearts and in no river such as this.

Some believe that oblivion begins here; others know it.


Hot was the sun, and humid the day, a day for rest in the city shade,

But transgressors, falsely brave, ignored the lessons of the swamp,

Ignored the menace, strangely fleshed, lurking there,

And packed themselves with dog and guns into a stuttering ATV,

And turned their heads toward that fate which neither waits nor seeks,

But only abides in its appointed time and place until disturbed by man.


Strange steroids, boiling and bubbling in that unhappy blood,

Burst forth into the body’s frame, its muscle, bone, and feral brain,

To produce this suid, double and triple again any farmer’s largest hog.

Tusks to rip from crotch to chin, feet to stomp the hearts of men,

Power to follow what will he has, and that will has no more sin

Than the robin that eats the worm, or the horse that feeds on hay.

And these are gentle, as the buzzards know who witness from above.


The dog was savage and strong but naive in the ways of the swamp,

He guarded his bitch by day and the trailer by night,

Growling at the toads and moths and mailmen that terrorized his little world.

Untrained, unprepared, unaware, all that remain of that poor dog

Are tears and bloody foam and a weak yelp echoing then forever still.


Stomping loudly thru the muck, the men know nothing of his fate, nor theirs.

But the hog has tasted blood. His brain points the way to life, and also death.

His wants and needs become his will,

And what he wills, he has the power to make it his.

And what is his, is his forevermore, for that’s the law in places such as this.


The older man was muscular and strong, a mover of feedsacks and concrete,

But the boar blindsided him from the left, stripped biceps from bone,

Rendered the arm raw, the artery spraying the wind, ribs crushed like a birdcage.

The rifle tumbled thru the air and stuck muzzledown in the mud, like a fallen twig.

Transfixed in that slobbering maw, he perceived his end, mourned his beginning.

Twelve pulses can’t measure the life of a man, but twelve can measure its end.


If burly men can meet this fate, how would a weaker fare?

He ran whimpering through the woods, the fifty cal on his belt, forgotten and useless,

A shiny ornament pretty in the dappled light. A shadow followed the sounds.

He tried to shinny up a skinny pine, but the hog found his dangling legs.

His hands stripped raw on the pine as the hog pulled him down.

Gnats and flies contested the bloody bark, oblivious to the wet sounds below.


With the coming of the night, the buzzard ends his daily flight.

As he flies a little slower, and circles a little lower,

The river flows ever onward to the sea.

And with the coming of the light, he takes again his daily flight,

He flies a little faster, and circles a little higher,

And waits once more for Hogzilla and for thee.


Dick Marti

15 June 2007

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