Tina Egnoski


The Census Taker

On horseback we set forth at dawn.
Zelma counts the living, black
and white. I count vultures. Sparse
shadows, circling. Our mares keep
track of cottonmouth coils
like pie tins half-buried in earth.

Pine prairie swallows hickory
hammock—both bellied
by a cypress swamp raw with
peat-meat. Horse hocks
part the river lilies. Cattails graze
our shins.

My companion knows every
hoof-step of this backwoods
scruff, every local. Tick mark for
turpentine and moonshine stillers,
women with children on knee and
at breast. Farmers, square dancers,
story-seers. The migrant and the
tenant. Tick, tick. Squatter, sitter,
wagon driver. Tick for outlaws,
tick for in-laws. Hunters, maids,
cooks, weavers, fishers, fence
menders, dress menders. Tick for a
father teaching his son to skin
a coon. Tick for worshipers, grove
men, gas siphoners, milkers,
nurses, drunkards, sugar cane
grinders. Tick, tick, tick until
the pad is blessed with lead.

We turn for home, breach again
the river. A heron wades—white
spectral in mourning
hood. We cross and live
to tell tales of the living,
of the living and the alive.

This Invisible Beauty

The poems in This Invisible Beauty pay homage to writer Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Rawlings moved to Cross Creek, Florida, in November of 1928. She and her husband, Chuck, bought a farmhouse in the middle of a seventy-four-acre citrus orchard. They planned to simplify their lives, earning an income from the sale of fruit, while Marjorie continued her writing career. She fell in love with the pine scrub landscape and with the "Crackers" who lived in the country. At Cross Creek she found her voice. In a speech she gave at Florida Southern College in 1935, Rawlings said of her new home, "It is the Florida of the hammock, the piney-woods, the great silent scrub. This is the Florida, wild and natural, that I'm calling 'the invisible Florida'. Not because it's remote or inaccessible and can't be seen, because there it is, a physical sight plain to anyone."


"The language in Tina Egnoski’s This Invisible Beauty crackles and sizzles. Egnoski simultaneously has an ear for the hot, gritty, lush land of Florida, and for the distinctive, independent voice of the writer and citrus grove proprietor Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Rawlings' life in the Florida countryside of the late 1920s and 1930s is vividly and sympathetically cast in these poems; readers will experience a rich human and natural dynamic. These poems are synesthetic, bracing, and very rewarding." -- Talvikki Ansel, author of Somewhere in Space

"The life of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, who wrote The Yearling while living on a sprawling citrus orchard in Cross Creek, Florida, is beautifully rendered in this chapbook of lyric poetry. Tina Egnoski’s language is straightforward and well-distilled as she builds a portrait of Rawlings' productive literary life (including epistles to Hemingway and editor Maxwell Perkins). The local flora and fauna, including insects galore, are characterized with a love of place that vibrates with the authenticity that only deep knowledge of a subject can bring. These poems are "pretty as lattice/​strong as alloy". It’s a great joy to read such accomplished work." --Leslie McGrath, author of Opulent Hunger, Opulent Rage

"Reading This Invisible Beauty immerses you in a raw, lush landscape seen through the discerning eyes of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings as imagined by Tina Egnoski. This is not a Florida most tourists see—the Florida of Disney World, NASCAR, and spring break—but a Florida where a zoo of insects spectate as Rawlings builds an indoor bathroom and "mares keep track/​of cottonmouth coils/​like pie tins half buried in earth." Yet it is also a Florida that invites one to wallow in "mud rapture," to "tongue/​kumquat juice off/​your chin"; a Florida where "turpentine and moonshine stillers, women/​with children on knee and at breast," and fishermen who "spit on a hook and cuss/​catfish to take the slimy bait" live side-by-side with the "double eye-patch of raccoons" and the "pale torsos of cypress/​…knob-kneed, armless/​ghosts of the shallow". --Kara Provost, author of Nests and Topless

Selected Works

Winner of the 2010 Clay Reynolds Novella Prize
Winner of the 2008 Black River Chapbook Competition

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