"The crystal-clear poems not only re-create for us the artifacts and gravesites of the red men that have fascinated this poet for three decades and more; they mull over the abiding mystery, for all who have the imagination to seek it out, of the prehistoric Americans. Ted Hirschfield is a wondererand a wonder, too."Louis D. Rubin, Jr.
"To read these wonderful poems is to accompany a wise poet on a fascinating archaeological excavation that uncovers our nation's unacknowledged and unremembered past. Middle Mississippians counterpoints moving and dramatic treatments of prehistoric Amerindians, native Americans like Tuscaloosa, invading Europeans like de Soto, and present-day Americans who are their descendants."Robert Hamblin
Ted Hirschfield, amateur archaeologist and historian of the culture of the Mound People of the Midwest, opens up a new world for us, a world that is almost gone. His poems tell the story of the once-mighty, now eroded or leveled earthworks of the Indians of this region. It is a melancholy tale of the insensitivity and greed of the white man, from de Soto to modern real estate developers.
"Temple Mound, Memphis, Tennessee" begins:
When de Soto rode his horses to the top
Of the mounds at Chucalissa on the bluffs,
Looking westward in long Spanish miles,
The endless miasmal swamps beneath him,
He did not know that his horse's hooves
Had already killed the power in that place.
"Temple Mound, Cape Girardeau, Missouri" ends:
A few million basketloads of earth
Carried here for a hundred years,
Divided up by the foot and dollar
And bulldozed down by a Caterpillar?
Without a signal marker or a sign
And fences are not cost-effective.
To leave it standing as a local park
Would mean the cost of maintenance,
The cost of leaving anything alone.
But Middle Mississippians is more than a precise recital of depredation. Through his passion for unearthing, examining, describing, and actually holding the artifacts of these ancient people, Hirschfield makes them leap to life for us.
In poem after poem, he pays tribute to the builders of these mounds, which he has studied, climbed, and combed for years, and gives us treasures that were once the common objects of work and play and worship for these vanished people.
Theodore (Ted) Hirschfield, who retired in 1995 from the English Department at Southeast Missouri State University, is the author of two previous books of poetry, Human Weather and German Requiem. He lives with his wife in Lehigh Acres, Florida.