Homo sapiens is the only species to suffer psychological exile. -E.O. Wilson I returned to a stand of pines, bone-thin phalanx flanking the roadside, tangle of understory – a dialectic of dark and light – and magnolias blossoming like afterthought: each flower a surrender, white flags draped among the branches. I returned to land’s end, the swath of coast clear cut and buried in sand – mangrove, live oak, gulfweed razed and replaced by thin palms – palmettos – symbol of victory or defiance, over and over, marking this vanquished land. I returned to a field of cotton, hallowed ground – as slave legend goes – each boll holding the ghosts of generations: those who measured their days by hefts of sacks and lengths of rows, whose sweat flecked the cotton plants still sewn into our clothes. I returned to a country battlefield where colored troops fought and died – Port Hudson where their bones swelled and blackened beneath the sun, unburied until earth’s green sheet pulled over them, unmarked by any headstone. Where the roads, buildings and monuments are named to honor the Confederacy, where that old flag still hangs, I return to Mississippi, state that made a crime of me – mulatto, half breed – native in my native land, this place they’ll bury me.