Oxbow Lakes

By Fred Dale

When his mother put him in a dress, he jumped into Bayou St. John

with no intention of ever coming back. There was not time enough

for a boy to idle under the humid moon of New Orleans and remain

only a boy, so he made his way to the deck of the USS Arizona

on her maiden voyage out of New York instead—just another girl

in the water he had to resist. He discharged that ship and filled

his pockets with other people’s pockets, a fever rolling in to square

up his young life, and this brought him home, whiskey to the knees

in trouble, and raising glasses to the louts to follow. There was

a horse track cutting across his wages, a family on Spain Street,

and when the feeling left him, they trimmed his legs back until he

dreamed himself to boyhood. As he lay in his rough passage,

his grandsons chased down his high howl calls in every bar,

knowing his kind would not come again. We’ve seen to that. Our

name, unraveling, our father preparing that sadness to take with him,

children kicked apart drink by drink. There’ll be no one to look into

the water for us, just below its first layer—the bow, the whole ship

rooted to where it took in what it was made to resist, sunk in its

corrosive amber, reminding us, when the river dares its edges

too much, a part of itself is left behind, slipping from its ghosted

branches, eyeing a life away.

 

——————

Fred Dale is a husband to his wife, Valerie, and a father to his occasional jerk of a dog, Earl. He is a Senior Instructor in the English Department at the University of North Florida, and an avid cyclist, but mostly, he just grades papers. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Crack the Spine, Chiron Review, Wild Violet Magazine, Indefinite Space, glassworks and others.


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