Bayou Belle Noire

The sawgrass parted grudgingly,
bowing and sighing in the airboat’s hot wind,
like an ageing racer’s heart braking on empty.
Flat-snouted bonefish boats
skimming west in the sunset
rolled half-hearted
half waves at the airboat’s wake.

The woman flexed heading the bow around,
losing two pounds in ten minutes in the late sun,
steam rising from her blue-black, lank hair.
Biceps tensed short arms muscled under fat
rendering her grace under tire
shaped back butt and candle — bookends
of over indulgent cooking.

Alligators near the shore quietly ignored
her approach until the moment day
fell overboard and drowned in the night.
Frogs took up the rant of backcountry preachers
buried as often as needed in a land
where water forgot to mind its manners.

Absent of love or any of its facsimiles,
her eyes adjusted fast and her slab hands
caught mosquito patrols phlat footed,
her bare arms flailing a dark so redolent
of dead fish she could taste its gumbo hunger.

Fish she’d stalked lay stunned or dead
in the broken-lid coolbox where she’d dumped
them during the afternoon — hard work in a haunting stalk,
poling the airboat through sawgrass hedges,
betting on the small pools of open water out of sight
from Cat Channel’s visible tides.

Flies buzzed off in the dark.
The fish they had blackened
poached in preternatural pails
of moonlight so thin it razored
hearts worse than Al Catalano
when he cut a mean figure there
in the parish before caching it
in peace, in pieces, in the coolbox.

Al waited, his hair white
among other whites, just passed-fors
each hoping to escape screened porch
to sag soft-thundering down and
hang soul-grab distance from rust pegs
that supported the coolbox door
broken off all those lost years back
when it mattered, when he used it.

Used it to hide hideous hide
and whatnot of rivals for her
tendrils, tenderness and tacit
acceptance of whoever smiled
her direction lamps into warm
heat, blew not out but encouraged
lymph light into boys’ shy places
forgotten since called up to preach.

On course to the cabin, she hesitated,
three hundred yards and four light-years
from Al, black-parched
in thin quartered light drawn back now
to conceal more than show why she
once caught his hard when it still beat
in minor-key measures each time
she entered his bar, sinister.

The bayou airboat bumped the pilings,
shaking mildew spores, beetles and breakfast crumbs
across the dank dark porch floor downhill
to meet her, landing with soft plops
heard mostly by midges. Black mud
from her boots mashed out arrival,
the only one Al had for years,
avoiding passed sentence for life.

Ripe fish raw thrown up the landing,
watery with waste from tired days
exhausted doing nothing hard,
she followed with line in right hand
and fish knife winking a greeting to
Catalano from the left one.
No words spoken, needs all long gone,
bound up tight: good taxidermy.

Al hung in his chair as he now
always would, tanned to near iron wood
by loosed elements of passion
in bayou protocols where boys
killed men to protect their rights, and girls
smooth like her retaliated:
keeping their lovers hooked, tame, tanned
where black waters ripple. Her home.

Miami Six

We hug
the night away.
It’s heaven till we part,
cross town to man McDonald’s tills.
for cash.

Real Hells
are worse than this
eight hours shifting bits
of animals from fire to mouths
that smack.

Kids dropped
a cinder block
on Linda’s doll she held
in match stick arms. A taste of Crack
at dawn.

No cops
come here (no tanks).
No ambulances here
where Linda played her mother was
asleep.

At six
pink tourists peer
from sixty stories high
across the boulevard to see
the beach.

The kids
in ‘normal’ homes
watch television ads
then bus to spend their day in school
with guards.

At lunch
a lady’s fur
(chinchilla, chilly blue)
gets splashed with Cola near the pool.
She sues.

A thief
has lost his head.
He looses Uzi shots
that catch two tourists who’re surprised
to bits.

Fresh drenched
in CK1,
the pretty people prowl
where either sex and any name
will do.

A man
who’s happy here
and likes his wife and job
offends some beach front bandit, gets
run down.

The rich,
the really rich,
buy politicians’ smiles,
and being faces that we know,
get ours.

A nun,
someone who cared,
can’t turn attention off.
Now working-drinking-praying’s failed
she jumps.

We raise
a million bucks
to put a greeting in
a rocket NASA’s sending up
to Mars.

Shifts end.
The centre holds
we tell ourselves, and war
is what the bloody Balkans have,
we say.

Yet More Killings

Can I be frightened? Yes. Shocked? Every day.
Each hour brings news I don’t want to know.
It’s not the knowing but the happenings I hate.

Murderers ruin survivors’ lives and leave
Earth worse off than they found it. There’s no Why.
The good among us vacillate and grieve.
We ask each other why must children die
for madmen’s twisted searches for the power.
The power eludes us all. Thank gods for that.

Each minute that we mourn takes us an hour
further away from Heaven. Lives go flat.
Bright colours fade, reduce to black and white.
We follow demagogues who bring the night.

Winter Walkies

The wind less dark than coal tar still sufficed
by jiggery-pokery to keep us in the dark.

It scrambled clouds and ringed the moon with ice,
eclipsed it with the world. No solar spark

traversed Earth’s molten core to light the ring
of atmospheric ice around the moon.

The walk home in the dark was twice as frightening
as we had dreaded all the afternoon.

You walked ahead and waved to keep your torch
alight and upright so we’d not get lost.

I saw the large dog pad down from the porch.
Your light blew out precisely when you crossed

your arms to shield your throat as I had dreamed
you would, and since you could not then, I screamed.

Apathy is a Developing Response

Apathy is a developing response.
Ask the young what should be done about some ‘X’
and they will answer with a certainty admired
by falling rocks which don’t so straightly plumb
the depths as do the certainties of youth.

In middle age, amongst their bouts of rage,
the folk, perplexed by living the long riddle
they call their lives, will entertain first doubts
about positions they once firmly held.
And then they’ll hold them tighter, fear letting loose

and a fall into ‘senescence’ — as we call
that acceptance Buddha lauds and Calvin hates,
where the answer to what one’s required to do
engenders daily less hot animo
and more and more a careless ‘I don’t know.’