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Summer by Elizaveta Kalacheva

Before the Kudzu

Elise Russell

It’s between Alabama and Mississippi 

that the sun turns soft. All I can do is half-see, 

and the vines turn telephone poles into looming shadows, 

jungle monsters reaching their tendrils toward the future. 

When muted violet, blue-green-mosquito-breeding- 

marsh overtakes the monotony of that roadside tree— 

the kind that only knows the highway,  

like some codependent childhood sweetheart, too afraid to leave— 

and when looking out the window isn’t a dizzying blur  

of there-then-gone foliage, everything just opens. And 

suddenly, I get to imagining how it used to be,  years and 

years ago: when rigs and refineries didn’t dot the wetlands  

like the egrets do. Plumes, not of smoke, but pure white and soft. 


"Before the water hyacinth, the nutria, the apple snail, / when we weren’t training jasmine to grow in / isometric triangles and concentric circles, / did nature know the word ‘tame?’ Does it now?"

Before the kudzu, what were we?  

Before the water hyacinth, the nutria, the apple snail,  

when we weren’t training jasmine to grow in 

isometric triangles and concentric circles, 

did nature know the word “tame?” Does it now?  


There are men in safety vests along the highway 

driving cherrypickers, holding chainsaws 

And they try to cut back what comes back: 



About the Writer...

Elise is a Junior at the Willow School in New Orleans, and a member of Willow’s Certificate of Artistry (CA) Creative Writing Program there. They have lived most of their life in New Orleans, apart from two years near Washington D.C. With a passion for stories since they could read, Elise loves to learn and explore life through language. Besides writing, they also enjoy music, cooking, crocheting, and traveling. Their creative writing teacher, Dr. Allison Campbell, supports their work—you can find her at

About the Artist...

Elizaveta Kalacheva is an aspiring artist from Russia now based in America and currently studying at Savannah Arts Academy. Her art draws inspiration from Picasso, Monet, and Van Gogh. Their revolutionary styles influence her work, blending modern innovation with classical beauty. She weave her cultural experiences into each piece, creating a unique fusion of traditions and perspectives. Art is her passion, and through her creations, she aims to invite others into a world where colors speak volumes and imagination knows no bounds.

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