East of Apalachicola Haunted

Sundays some folks set tables with linen, damask fresh-pressed for a feast
of canned sardines & cornbread.

They’ve trained up their boys with switches & belts. On storm-nights,
a boy might fall asleep counting

barrels of oysters to shuck.      One boy lies awake.    On bad-wind nights he presses hands
in prayer toward Heaven:        Our father who starts in heaven hallow be thy name,
            thy kingdom comes, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven, give us bread &
forgive us our trespassers
            as we forgive those against us,
                                                            and lead us
into temptation &
deliver us from evil forever & ever amen

Bad wind blows but no rain comes: He’ll reach for cards,
locks of hair & black-eyed peas,
stowed away for times like these. The boy stops praying.
Footsteps on the stairs. Drunk-Daddy.                Be a good boy

Strange fullness to the moon.
Left ear pricked red. Animal sounds.
Slave-whip, kiss the hand.

Crack you hard

Hell was loosed on bad-wind nights like this
in the Panhandle. When white boy Cebe Tate,
born just before the war, got himself seven days lost in the swamp
in search of a cow.      Came out with hair gone white, bone-thin.
Said he’d been in hell.            Tate’s Hell swamp is coming.

The boy lets it be done.

Wind lays down.                         Daddy dumbly smoking.

Steady hands the candle.

Ghost-lights flicker in the forest.
Some say it’s just swamp gas.
This boy knows he’s gone.