“Dragon Run” by Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda
Poet Laureate of Virginia, 2006–2008
Shortly after moving to the Middle Peninsula on the east coast of Virginia, I learned about the Dragon Run, a 40-mile long river that winds through a bald cypress swamp forest. I attended presentations by noted naturalist and wildlife photographer, Teta Kain, and was inspired by her insights about the natural world. I soon joined several energizing kayak trips, led by Teta on the Dragon Run, to learn more about this region. As soon as she became aware that I was Poet Laureate of Virginia, she asked me to write an occasional poem about this pristine area to present to the Friends of the Dragon Run, an organization that promotes preservation of the watershed. Not only did I write one poem, but I wrote several and then joined the effort to preserve this unmarred ecosystem. An excerpt of the following poem was used to introduce a DVD, The Dragon Run: A Step into the Past / A Strategy for the Future, produced by EAF Custom Communication to highlight this area. The poem was reprinted in the Dragon Run Newsletter and in World Poetry Yearbook 2015 and appears in two of my books, River Country and These Flecks of Color: New and Selected Poems.
Knee-deep in the Dragon, I lean in
to feel the wilderness.
The brisk call of dawn splashes
against ash and gum. Sassy,
this liquid sun pursuing a cypress,
its roots lifted from the swamp
like stubby knees. Stooping, with the bowl
of my hands, I draw from the depths
muddied snails, clams, a leech snaking
palustrine waters and squirming as I fish.
Careful not to tear pickerel weeds
or cattails, I let pliant grasses braid
the pristine path, nibble my manmade boots,
gurgling through this sibilant stream,
swishing like a reptile. The windless
air sliced, I search loblollies,
spy a bald eagle lifting off. Chiseled bones
float by. Opiate: the thrall. I teeter,
fall. Against my jaw a damselfly’s flutter.
Like a stunned doe, I flail. The taste
of sediment numbs my senses. I breathe in
these wetlands like a wild iris.
As my interest in environmental preservation increased, I traveled across Virginia to give presentations in universities, art centers, and museums. I also participated in poets laureate events in Indiana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Kansas, where I gave readings emphasizing the need to pay close attention to the environment. During each event I shared “Dragon Run.”
Although I wrote quite a few occasional poems while serving as poet laureate, here are three that have lived beyond the occasion:
*I participated in a tour of William Christenberry’s Exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and wrote an occasional poem about his photograph, Red Building in Forest, Hale County, Alabama, 1983 at the request of Paul Ruther, former manager of Teacher Programs at the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. The poem was distributed widely to members of the Phillips Collection and was featured at art-inspired poetry events.
*At the 3rd National Gathering of Poets Laureate, organized by Joyce Brinkman and held in Indiana, a CD was created of poems about sports by U.S. State Poets Laureate, international poets, and youth from Sports Poetry Clinics. The poem I wrote for this occasion is “Horseback Riding off Route 33.” The CD was distributed to numerous schools for instructional purposes.
*Another poem that received widespread attention is “The Goodness of the Physician,” written at the request of my family physician, Dr. Sterling N. Ransone, who during my term as poet laureate served in a leadership position for the Virginia Academy of Family Physicians. In 2008 I presented this occasional poem at the Academy’s annual meeting in Virginia Beach. The poem centers on a near-death experience I endured as a teenager. I was saved by our family physician, Dr. Joseph Hoge, who stopped by our home at this critical moment to check on me, called an ambulance, and got me to the hospital in time.
Writing emotionally charged poems at the request of others is inspirational. Although the occasional poems cited here were well-received, “Dragon Run” rose to the top as an attention getter. Kayaking on creeks and in wetlands introduced my husband and me to ospreys, eagles, herons, and egrets. The environment inspired us to establish a certified Backyard Wildlife Retreat. Twenty-two years after moving to this pristine area, we still devote hours to feeding and caring for birds, monarch butterflies, and other creatures – all while observing their habits and features. Silence rules on our wooded lot. It is the ideal location for a writer who strives in poem after poem to preserve the beauty of nature.