7   +   1   =  

Arc of an Afternoon

In a stretch of amber water some call the swamps of Florida, a man longs for the home he has
always lived in, a long-muscled wave tossing between shores, the quarter mile of liquid he
knows as if he were the watchman of its vein.

His skin has screamed the red of so many sunsets
it sags
like heavy,
crinkled leather.

Runs his hand along his scales and nods,
a fish left out too long, lives in longing,
deepens with a desire
to forget desire, takes his
lack of satisfaction as a sign that his work is not complete. He hopes it never is,

that the work which builds in his sleep and in his wake will always rise above him and shush his
noise like water
—feel turbulent in sudden storms—
but day to day surround him
in a constellation of swishes and suction
that require his participation and remind him

that man and animal, that manimal and life itself are members of the elements,
not over-guiding hands that conduct them around an imagined crux,
nor a sweeping swirl of importance towards which worldly affairs conspire.

Fishing,
he lifts the reel and twitches the line with his finger,
feels for the countertug
that could signify
a nibble, a fight,
dinner and the pursuit of a well-earned swallow:
how long the first bite lasts.

In all the sun has wrought of being, he considers himself a hole, a flute, a stitch along a seam
continually resewn, a munch of music, a catch and release, a man who cares what his strokes
destroy, a light-footed stepper, a song in a bottle, a living, breathing pore.

Hanging over the edge of his skiff, the salt in his sweat he returns to the ocean. The seaweed he
strips from his line for keeps, rolling his tongue under his wife’s miso soup. The day’s work he
hammers from memory to muscle to bone. The fish he tosses in a gleaming arc that says goodbye
and farewell and the unsayable anguish of entanglement—

the fish he tosses in a gleaming arc to another half-fated chance in the waters.

 

 

Dreaming of Panthers

Deep in the Everglades
where a man sleeps with a fan
pointed at his head,
the night swallows whatever
the horizon throws at her—
she has no stomach,
it goes right through—
until the sun spreads
its pink invasion
from the corners of the sky
and night’s gone—she’ll be back.

At dawn a panther
slinks through the sawgrass—pink muhly—
the day already so
heavy it sinks,
in search of prey, early or late,
perhaps a nine-banded armadillo
coming off the night shift,
the panther’s fur rippling,
windteased grain,
muscles undulating down
her tightly tuned body,
her single instrument—
what but a god could play this?

Does the panther
catch whiff of the stink
of the man? Does hunger push
her face into the crevices
of his shack? Does she crouch
under a thatch of saw palmetto
waiting for the door to open
so she can gauge
his size, defenses,
how he stumbles
out to piss and yawn
at the banana spider
strung between the fronds?

A fog rolls in
with the taste of wild boar
in its heart, which seems
to be the most of it,
banging
from the dream
to tell me a panther
and hunger and a man
drinking himself to death
are forms of a creature
I too inhabit.

I could be any of them.
I could be all.
My body kicks
the covers,
a low growl
rumbles in the throat—
is it phlegm or cat or love?—
a scream tears me awake
and there’s blood in my mouth
and I don’t know
what happened.