The Only Everglades in the World


Robin Chapman

Chapbook Cover

Chapman's clear, direct poems chronicle a journey to and through the Florida Everglades. They depict both a remarkable adventure and a disquieting odyssey, an expectation of primeval wildness confronted with the reality of its casual despoiling. Chapman gives us the feel of her kayak moving through miles of dark water on a solitary night, the marvel of five leaping dolphins alongside her boat, the simplicity of possessions reduced to what a kayak can hold. A few moments offer complete immersion in the elemental, as on the night when "...we stood/in a world made entirely of stars/wheeling under our feet and above our heads,/naked, in the original world...." The poems are full of warning as well as wildness. Yet Chapman's voice is not one of drama or blame, but of thoughtful awareness and regret: "Where are the alligators?.../And where are the birds?.../Where are the hundreds....?/Vanished.../ Vanished.../Vanished...." "...How we need to take thought/for the ripples and echoes of our speed."

Robin Chapman is the author of four previous poetry collections, Distance, Rate, Time, Learning to Talk, and the poetry CD Banff Dreaming, from Fireweed Press; and The Way In from Tebot Bach Press, which won the Council of Wisconsin Writer's 1999 Posner Book-Length Poetry Award. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, The Hudson Review, The American Scholar, The Southern Review, and The Iowa Review, among many other literary journals. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with her husband Will Zarwell.


At Night in the Everglades

What pulled us out of the tent past midnight?
Perhaps the moon's absence called us out,
or the sky itself, empty of city light and full
of stars -- as, camped on the chickee
with water surrounding us
on every side, we woke
to find the bay entirely still,
a glass, reflecting underfoot
even the littlest stars
of the clear sky overhead, so that we stood
in a world made entirely of stars
wheeling under our feet and above our heads,
naked, in the original world, and only a dolphin's fin
traced a wavery line across the Milky Way.

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