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In these luminous poems, the landscape of the the Illinois prairie and Mississippi bluffs is alive with the memory of the native people who lived and died there. In the flight of a hawk or the vista from effigy mounds above the river, autumn wind carries “the cries of small pups, the voice/of a young girl at play . . . /the breathless notes of wooden flutes/in the creaking trees.” In a few of the poems, Collins channels the voices of Black Hawk, the Indian agent and a general who fought him, creating a powerful and haunting lament on the ravages of Manifest Destiny, finally encouraging us with the evocative language of the land to “to believe/what the old ones say, that the earth/remembers us.”
Born and raised in Illinois, Caroline Collins received a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing and a doctorate in nineteenth century American literature from the University of Arkansas. Her poems and essays have appeared in numerous scholastic and belletristic journals. She and her husband, poet and literary critic Floyd Collins, live in Cuthbert, Georgia. She teaches writing and literature at Andrew College.
Presences is available for purchase through Parallel Press for $10.00. Discounts are provided for libraries, booksellers, and non-profit organizations.
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When dusk begins to paint the sky, they come
carrying the dust of their old villages,
treading the worn trails down from the bluffs,
striding the ancient sandstone shelves
down to the bay, where they used to trade,
their heels turning the water luminous,
their voices curving in the last skittish,
fragmented arias of daylight, their drums
thrumming in the wings of nightbirds,
their laughter rising with the swifts
until morning has burned away the mist
that hovers so lightly over the fields.