Photograph by Jonathan Jackson
Photograph by Jonathan Jackson

Trembling Earth

The Okefenokee Swamp in South Georgia is a National Wildlife Refuge, a National Wilderness Area, and, in plain terms, a national treasure. But a mining proposal threatens it.

Summers, driving to the beach in our blue Oldsmobile,
my father would reach through his rolled-down window

as we passed the Okefenokee’s Waycross entrance
and point: That’s where Pogo lives. He never stopped

and if we knew the blackwater swamp that bubbled
close to our home was the largest in North America, or

that it harbored Muscogee burial grounds, I forgot,
until at a family reunion, children and grandchildren

in tow, we booked a sunset cruise. My mother declined to go.
It’s a sight to behold, she granted, but some people never come back.

The boat glides in inky waters through meadows of pitcher plants
and water lilies. An alligator sprawls on a tussock, its eyes

shuttered. Our guide idles the craft near a rookery where sandhill
cranes and ibises, herons and egrets racket the sky. The birds roost

in towering cypresses, their white wings, rosy breasts, and blue feathers
lit like ornaments. We bundle in puffer jackets, watch a lazy black

current swallow the orange glow. A quarter moon rises, our signal
to leave. Years later, a prairie burns. Ash coats cotton fields

that neighbor my parents’ home. But a fire keeps a swamp a swamp
we’re told, unlike the Twin Pines mine that will claw away soil

and pirate sand from Okefenokee’s ancient dam. The treasure: titanium
for smoke grenades and solar panels. An additive that makes white

paint whiter, makes paper, toothpaste, and marshmallows brighter.
The company promises limited damage, good-paying jobs. Whitewashes

the loss: wetlands, tupelos, bobcats, and bitterns.
In such a wake, bones rattle and mud quakes.

Hear Karen Luke Jackson read “Trembling Earth”


About the author

Karen Luke Jackson takes ideas from oral history, contemplative practices and nature for her work. Her poems have appeared in journals including Broad River Review, where she won the Rash Award for Poetry,Ruminate, One, Atlanta Review and Redheaded Stepchild. Her chapbook, GRIT, 2020, chronicles her sister’s adventures as an award-winning clown, and her full collection, The View Ever Changing,” 2021, explores the power of place and family ties. A native of South Georgia, Karen now lives in a cottage on a goat pasture in western North Carolina.

1 thought on “Trembling Earth”

Leave a Comment