Saltcherry Chorus Voice III

Cesca Janece Waterfield

you must let down
your hair
from bell tower,
bell tower.
Tart cell polymorph,
pivot on your heart,
a civet
in russet colored heat.
Corona radiata, ovum
on a pin
in ciliated tango,
salpinx and salpinx.
Tuba uterina,
pileus and bing,
watch bellflower
to bellflower,
the cardinal tail
his twin.

Cambium flamenco,
dance in duple thrall.
Codling moth, hang
from crab apple
espaliered to the wall. By privet hedge in fescue
a peacock crows and shakes
to entertain the odalisque
who swans her milky neck.
Vermilion finger,
juniper green thumb,
saltpeter for growing,
saltpeter for the gun.
You lift
a tray of cups turned over
emptying out their nectar,
spray of empty cups
emptying their splendor
and you think you’re holding,
you think you’re holding bellflowers,

Cesca Janece Waterfield graduated from McNeese State University with an MFA in Creative Writing and an MA in English. Her fiction and poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in The Other Stories, Writers Resist, Scalawag Magazine, Deep South Magazine, Foliate Oak, RVA Magazine, and many other publications. Follow Cesca on Twitter @cescajanece.

Before the Razor
A look inside the creative process of “Saltcherry Chorus Voice III”

The first year I lived in southwest Louisiana, I became preoccupied with the combination of salt and cherries as subjects for writing. It was a pairing that might have embodied the emotional flux I was experiencing, excited to be part of the MFA program I’d begun that year, yet missing home, and stretched thin taking classes, teaching, and working nights at a restaurant. At the time, I was watching conservation efforts back home in Virginia and the dwindling clean-up by BP after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf. On the Rappahannock River I grew up on and throughout the Chesapeake Bay region, climate change is an active threat to oyster populations. Oysters of the region were nearly decimated in part by increased algae resulting from warming oceans. And the Wiregrass region of Alabama where I spent my early childhood is an ecosystem that benefits from “lightning-season burns” that promote growth of its native plants. But everyday, evidence mounts that greenhouse gases threaten the fire-adapted plants of this region. As I thought about home, the work I wanted to do, and the environmental threats to places I loved, the only way I could see to convey such yearning, joy, and loss was with music. I considered how I might translate a chord, wrote “Saltcherry Chorus,” and then wrote a contrapuntal response to the first “voice.” I followed with others. With the series, I aimed to evoke wonder for the natural world, yearning to reconcile oneself with home, and also acknowledgement of what is fast disappearing.

Celebration and despair for the pine and pecan trees, for the isoprene gases deciduous trees emit to protect themselves from heat, gases that give the Blue Ridge Mountains their diaphanous hue.Celebration and despair for the river I walked as a child, for the wild cherry trees that hang over its banks.

Celebration and despair for the pitcher plant I remembered from Alabama, trapping insects with its nectar, so it can digest them to create more nectar. The simultaneity of whimsy and horror, of discovery and despondency, the connectedness of everything. This led to some formal experimentation, like left-moving lines, and trying to approach symmetry that isn’t quite symmetry, but chordal polyphony.