Louisiana
  
by Cody Smith

for Joe Millar

There’s a hundred miles of bad road
between here and the Gulf of Mexico,
but we don’t say it. We listen
to Tab Benoit sing “When a Cajun Man
Gets the Blues,” watch turtles lurch
from cypress knees into black swamp
water as we drive the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge.
The last time we were back home,
we knew we’d be leaving again,
heading back to the Inland Northwest,
to that tinderbox of wheat and fir.
When we cross the bridge now, we lose
the horizon, pine thicket crowding I-10,
and I think if I let my hand out the window,
I could graze the state workers bush hogging
the trash in the ditches. They say
now the maps are wrong, that the state
is no longer a boot, that the toes are cut off,
that the sole jags. There’s a hundred miles
of bad road from here to the Gulf,
but there used to be more. Tab sings
about dancing the fais do-do till he can’t
dance no more. We’ll soon be home for good,
tucked away in fields of sugar cane. What’s left
of the boot loses another football field of wetlands
by the time we make it to Baton Rouge from
Lafayette. We unload our things, sip coffee
on the back porch in the citronella candle light,
and we’re back home where flames from the factory
flare stacks of Cancer Alley rise above the cane,
in this state whose sky is fire      
and whose ground is water.