Oct 182014
The flat-bottomed rowboat
Swung through daft cattails
Higher than our heads--
Dry hotdogs, clubs almost, poked
On primitive spear-ends
While the boat made wavery water-echoes
Unevenly level
From our communal rowing.

The estuary was dawn-fresh, wet
As we slid by; my father, my brothers, and I--
Four hulked shadows quiet in the smell of burnt coffee.
Our breaths steamed like our cups,
Hands cold around the weird weight of 4-10 shotguns,
The river all lazy Ss of yellowy light
Rich as streaked paint, the eely detailing
On my brother Gil's busted-up Ford Mustang.

An ear-splitting squeak
Odd as a strangled doll's
Flared from Dad's palmed duck-call,
Held close as a harmonica, the army-surlus
Coat elbows tucked to his heavy sides neatly
As our holstered oars.

"Hup!" he said, lifting his shotgun quick.

Ducks exploded from the dark cattails,
Wings expansive as flamenco dancers' arms,
The white underwing vulnerable as eyelids,
The pale bikini triangles
Of fourteen-year-old girls 
As they rattled skyward,
Calling forlornly in their rubber voices.

"Hup!" he said again,
The blast leaving us deaf as statues,
Our amazed eyes still, widened white, mouths
Broken open as cattails grazed us,
And we skimmed to where the water had shot up
When the duck fell.

In after-blast silence,
The duck's humping of the water seemed hypnotic,
The touch of a masseuse to an ancient scar,
Working the stiffness out 
Finger by finger.

Gil pulled it into his lap like a doused shirt,
The web feet raincoat yellow, the blood
Swirling with spilled coffee, and handed him to me
By the neck, his flapping nearly stopped.
"Wring his neck.  He's in pain now."
I cried and let the musky bundle fluster me,
My hands full of green-golden, blue-molten feathers,
The wild eye small as a pencil-tip, as black.

I wrote this poem for a workshop this past winter which Lauren Schmidt conducted admirably. The workshop was done as a preamble to her featuring at November’s RiverRead poetry reading in Red Bank, NJ. Our slogan is “words along the Navasink.”

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