The work that follows is from Mississippi, an ongoing collaborative project by Ann Fisher-Wirth (poems) and Maude Schuyler Clay (photographs).
These August afternoons even the candles melt dear God I shape them again with my hands stay there but the wax just sweats and oozes there on the mantel next to mama’s painting Sometimes I lie on the floor’s wide planks too tired too listless to move as all day the sun swims from right to left across the window Once when she was dying mama saw a dog or thought she saw a dog beneath the pecan trees in the rain it turned toward her she said and then it disappeared mostly she slipped in and out in and out and deeper
Had me a dog once deep chest brindle coat by the looks of it a fine strong dog but the damn dog wouldn’t hunt would just stand there looking at me and I don’t need to be feeding no dog that won’t hunt you know what I mean? cute when they come off the mamma but they got to have that inclination give em a season it don’t work out leave em behind you know what I mean?
—And the five o’clock sun on the glass-front bookcase where once I crouched to read my father’s Tennyson I hope to see my Pilot face to face when I have crost the bar mother napping daddy not home yet just such a light as today (but Tennyson said in the dark I have not seen him) now they are gone mother daddy my sister Virginia all * * * Why do I save their things damask napkins I was hemming for Virginia mother’s majolica plate now piled with fruit the curved chairs the gleaming table
Once we drove to the lake lay on his Chevy to look at the stars funny thing was no stars but I could feel his heart and hear the peepers singing eeeeeeee eeeeeeee eeeeeeee eeeeeeee eeeeeeee eeeeeeee hours and hours we lay there he covered me with his coat when I got cold * * * once I think I dozed not dozed something stranger than dozed opened my eyes again peepers still singing his heart still thumping clouds whipped around tearing holes in the sky and shining through was the moon
Ann Fisher-Wirth has published four books of poems—Dream Cabinet, Carta Marina, Blue Window, and Five Terraces. She also coedited The Ecopoetry Anthology and has published the chapbooks Slide Shows, Walking Wu-Wei’s Scroll, and The Trinket Poems. Her poems have received numerous awards, including a Malahat Review Long Poem Prize, the Rita Dove Poetry Award, the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Poetry Award, two Mississippi Arts Commission fellowships, and 13 Pushcart nominations including a Special Mention. She teaches at the University of Mississippi, where she also directs the minor in Environmental Studies, and teaches yoga.
Maude Schuyler Clay attended the University of Mississippi and the Memphis Academy of Arts, and after graduating she assisted the photographer William Eggleston. She worked as a photography editor and photographer for Esquire, Fortune, Vanity Fair, and other publications. She returned to Mississippi in 1987 and received the Mississippi Arts and Letters award for photography in 1988 and in 1992, and the Mississippi Art Commission’s Individual Artist Grant in 1998. The University Press of Mississippi published her widely recognized monograph DELTA LAND in 1999, which received the Mississippi Arts and Letters Award. Her work is in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and The National Museum for Women in the Arts, among others.