Fort Mose, Florida, 1763
Melissa Range

Fort Mose, Florida, 1763

Supplicate no longer the Virgin
flat on wood panel

in this haven for termites,
this mosquito altar.

Seventy years’ refuge
for self-emancipators, over.

One colonizer yields
to another, flag of England

supplanting that of Spain.
Holy water on the brow

no longer confers freedom.
Now the fort empties out.

Years hence, the marsh
will swallow it. Fugitive seeds

of sea grapes and sea oats
catching, rooting.

Where they went—by boat
to Cuba, or to the Everglades,

or to parts poorly mapped, or to God.
What they left—fingerprints,

potsherds, sediment—
an evaporated trail

brown pelicans couldn’t follow.
A sparkle marooned in the water.

Melissa Range

is the author of Scriptorium, a winner of the 2015 National Poetry Series (Beacon Press, 2016), and Horse and Rider (Texas Tech University Press, 2010). Her recent poems have appeared in Ecotone, Iowa Review, The Nation, and Ploughshares. She teaches creative writing and American literature at Lawrence University in Wisconsin.