Adventures on the Mississippi
Devi Lockwood ’14, an associate of Dudley House concentrating in Folklore and Mythology with a citation in Arabic, was awarded an Office for the Arts at Harvard/Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships Artist Development Fellowship to create a series of interlocking poems examining the folklore and stories associated with the southern Mississippi River between Memphis and New Orleans. Lockwood is a two-time recipient of a Carol K. Pforzheimer Student Fellowship (2011 and 2012) for projects exploring the works of female poets at the Schlesinger Library. Her work has been published in a number of publications including Tuesday Magazine, Sinister Wisdom, Awosting Alchemy, Verse Wisconsin, and others. She plans to pursue an MFA in poetry. She filed this post from Louisiana; read her first post from Provincetown here.
A short story:
Earlier today I stood not ten feet away from an adult Bengal tiger. And I know what you’re thinking—this is not my real life on the Mississippi version of Life of Pi.
I took a water break from riding my bicycle at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, Louisiana near the intersection with Highway 10. The place has continuously owned tigers for the last goodness-knows-how-many years and now there is a Louisiana state court case about it that might go to the Supreme Court that pits an animal rights activist who is protesting the tiger’s exposure to diesel fumes against the store and its clientele. There was a shirt inside for sale that said “tigers eat animal rights activists for breakfast” (more at www.savetony.com). There’s a poem in here, I know it.
I would say that every day on this bike trip is an adventure, but it’s really more like every hour. Tonight I am staying with a wonderful Cajun family in Grosse Tete, Louisiana—somehow I have had the luck of meeting such great people along the way. I envy the south for its sunsets, too. The clouds look like water and the orange spills everywhere.
A longer story:
After 800 miles on the road, I arrived at the “End of the Earth” in Venice, Louisiana—the southernmost part of the state and the end of the Mississippi River Bike Trail. It’s about the journey, not the destination—but dang, did it feel good to get here! There was nothing around except for a gravely road with water on both sides, a few people casting fishing lines into the sunset about a mile away, and some kind of chemical plant off to the left. I may or may not have had to run after a car to get this picture taken.
I’m not sure whether there was water on the road or road on the water.
The unfinished bit:
As I reflect back on the beautiful, life-changing experience that was this trip, I am so grateful to all the people that I met along the way—they are the ones who made this trip what it was. I brought a tent with me expecting to pitch it when there was an available campground and to stay in hotels/motels/whatever I could find.
Goodness, was I wrong. Once I started meeting people, a chain reaction of southern hospitality followed me down the length of the river. I only pitched the tent twice. I spent three nights on the floor of different fire stations. So many people welcomed me into their homes and lives and shared with me the most amazing stories. I am so inspired by the river, its stories, and the friends I made along the way. Now, onto writing poems. I can’t wait to come back.
I have so much respect for all the fire fighters out there because it is H-O-T in that gear… and I wasn’t even in a fire! Tip to putting this on—you have to put the boots in the pants before you put any of it on. In related news, sleeping over at fire stations is really fun.
GATOR. We had a staring contest. The gator won. I rode away.
Bayou is my new favorite word. Also, New Orleans is gorgeous.
I’ll take watching the sky over watching TV any day.
Late afternoon sun on the levee.
I swear the clouds look like water.
I agree with everything about this quotation except the gendered pronoun.