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Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No. 766
~ Clarksdale, MS ~ Helena, AR ~ Memphis, TN ~ Vicksburg, MS ~
Tears on Teagarden, Tuesday, Feb 18, 2020

Last week I discovered a Dead Baby Dolphin on Teagarden Beach. I called SOS-DOL-PHIN (888-767-3657) and then awaited with the poor beached baby in the fog until the rescue team arrived. I am certain the mother was nearby. I could feel her anguish. The baby was a newborn, a female. Her skin was wrinkled with telltale fold lines from the dolphin womb. The necropsy was indeterminate. Stormy weather might have caused a separation. Or something else. A tragic end to a promising life. Particularly poignant in this devastating year for the dolphin population of the Mississippi Sound.

Opening up, the storm now parting
a horizontal misty canyon
crystallizing between the raging sea
and a convoluted cloudy ceiling
my heart racing back to
the sweet innocent baby dolphin
her forced agonizing separation
from her mother

her tender lithe blue-grey body
toned by un-used muscles
and tinged pink in places
white and blue in others
who never got to swim or play
never knew the freedom
of the open water
the joy of leaping through the waves

sweet perfectly formed baby
soft and supple
her creamy white tongue grooved intricately for suckling mother's milk
her tender eye open yet not seeing
made perfectly in the image of goodness
and creation

the greatest and most graceful design
made to curl and leap and dive
to sprint underwater
pulsing pumping undulating
muscles so soft and supple and swift and sweet
so precious and precocious

I am crying for you and I never knew you
I can only imagine mother's anguish as she
is forced to turn and abandon you
nudging her newborn forward
through storm tossed waters
unable to buoy her aloft to take her first breath
of fresh air, maybe you aspirated
in the crashing waves of yesterday’s storm

looking for consolation in the beauty
of another low tide morning.
tears now falling like rain on Teagarden Beach

I have never before seen a leopard frog
or any frog of any sort on the gulf beaches
and yet resting there in the rubbish of high tide line
leopard frog sat in nearby commiseration
as if maintaining a vigil
and later disappeared after the rescue people came
and took you away

rich sandbar ripple patterns
left by last night’s high tide
wind tossed sea
gradually calming down
every ripple pattern unique
never seen two areas exactly the same
the variety feeding my insatiable appetite
with soul food, forever looking,
forever seeking, always rewarded
with something of interest, inspiration
and deep soul satisfaction

breathing in deep and filling my heart lungs
with vital soul nutrients
the kind that keeps me going through all the crowd-causing hyper-speed chaos around me
the president making profane gestures and remarks at the national day of prayer
the next morning the crowding of vehicles, the violent pressure to conform or get crushed

Get off the road
seek the road less travelled
take to the riverbanks
the forests, the mountains, the beaches
and find solace in the endless vistas
even with the helicopter roar behind
yet you can still breathe deep
with the view of the infinite in front…
something anyone can find by simply looking up

My heart feeling anguish for the dead baby dolphin
as a monster is unleashed in the white house
and the mad rush of our success-driven society
not realizing success is in front and all around us
and is not some distant goal on the horizon
which you must drive faster to reach


The Lower Mississippi River Dispatch "Voice of the Lower Mississippi River" is published by the Quapaw Canoe Company, 22 years of high quality access to the wild wonder of the big river in human powered vessels. Photos and writing by John Ruskey, Mark River and others. Please write for re-publishing. Feel free to share with friends or family, but also credit appropriately. Go to and click on "Quapaw Dispatch" for viewing back issues of the LMRD.


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