The Gully at flood stage

The Gully at flood stage

Places names are sometimes as curious and fascinating as the actual places they name.  Running the length of the small town of Eunice, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana, is such a place: Richard’s Gully, the principal “waterway” of the Prairie Cajun Capital of the World.  (Richard is pronounced Cajun, as “ree-shard”–if you don’t say it right, you mess up the local color!).  The photo here shows Richard’s Gully above flood stage, almost out of its banks at the Maple Avenue crossing no more than a half mile from our house.  Ordinarily, the gully is little more than a glorified ditch with a sluggish, sometimes stagnant flow.  The observations in the piece that follows were noted at such a stage of low water.

Richard’s Gully
Composed 1994

In the beginning

nature created a slough, a natural morass;

but men with shovels and draglines enlarged upon the idea,

as men do with nature’s ideas,

likely because they wanted to get rid of rain water they didn’t want in their houses,

regrettably not because some aesthetic soul saw a picture of Grand Canyon

and thought a scaled-down mud model would accentuate the flat Cajun prairie;

so they gouged a channel

deep and jagged and ragged

and piled the black excavated silt high to make a levee

shored up with dump-truck chunks of busted concrete and asphalt

left over from unwanted parking lots,

and man said, “Let there be Richard’s Gully.”

And man saw that it was good.

Thus Richard’s Gully was finished

as the earth was gashed and slashed and piled high

in the interest of improving man’s life on it,

and the job’s been touched up upon ever so often

with more shovels and draglines and industrial-strength herbicide

since nature has an annoying tendency to undo man-made modifications,

as any woman who has touched up gray streaks in her hair will swear with vehemence,

but men and women do these things to alter creation

because they are subduing the earth.

Today Richard’s Gully is sprouting chicken trees and willow wisps

slithering through crevices

in scum-encrusted heaps

of busted concrete and busted asphalt,

and sprouting colorful crops with genus species nomenclatures

like Miller Lite and Pepsi Free and Diet Coke

rising out of sludge-lined banks

like shiny seedlings

in a metallica garden

in a fetid ecosystem

where stagnant, larvae-infested pools

laced with sewery strains

of dish water and urine and decomposed armadillo flesh

nurture festering, feathery tendrils

of green pickled slime

floating in the murky shallows

of a nauseatic sea

teeming with base putrefaction.

Richard’s Gully is a man-made morass,

the polluted brain child of industrious citizens,

and a moldy monument to man’s condition.

No one lingers long

on the shores of Richard’s Gully.