(New Iberia, LA)
He was a mere twenty-one when from nowhere
the squall came up, washed him overboard
from the shrimp boat, and gave him to the Gulf,
taking his right leg with the nasty bite
of a hammerhead. Ever since, he's sold tackle
and handled bait to eke out his living
from the Gulf that maimed him, learning through time
that he and it are one, wed in a brute,
indifferent violence. But a hundred yards
from its surf, his travel trailer creaks,
floundering in the bite of salty canines,
decorated with nothing but sharks' teeth
and crucifixes hacked from the skulls of catfish.
In the summer sun, he shifts to his prosthesis
his awful weight, testing his stamina like bait
slamming the side of an unforgiving bucket.
Lifting Her Voice to God
(Plaquemines Parrish, Louisiana)
The immaculate pleats of her robe
belie the loose, wrinkled flesh beneath it,
her gloves the artifacts of hands
arthritic from decades of domestic labor.
Eighty if a day, every Sunday morning,
she ascends the steps to the choir loft,
and assumes her place on the makeshift bleachers.
Fixing her bright, bespectacled eyes on the baton,
she waits for its first, sparrow-quick dip,
and, in a single motion, drops her mandible
and belts out a note of flawless tremolo,
a note of such powerful purity
it all but shatters the panes of stained glass
radiant as the raspberry sun which, a century
ago and but a mile from where she sings,
down through the branches of an ancient live oak,
bathed with God’s good grace the pendulous,
soul-freed body of her beloved grandfather.
Dia de los Muertos
As the sacred
Through the dust-
of their kitchens,
shafts of moonglow
of fresh marigolds
sparkling the sugar
of festive skulls.
Fort Sumner Deputy
His Stetson hogs
the chair beside him,
his head so heavy
with his jowls
it droops like the head
of a vulture.
His midriff protuberant
with links, ribs, and brisket,
he shoves himself back
a few more inches
from the table.
He packs his Camels,
slamming the package
top-down, slides one out,
lights it with his Bic,
and takes a deep drag.
He feels his bloodlust
rising like a fever,
beside itself with craving,
desperate for the roadkill
of a fresh, human wreck,
his fleshy ears twitching,
perked for the welcome
static of a dispatch.
Larry D. Thomas, a member of the Texas Institute of Letters, was the 2008 Texas Poet Laureate. He has published several award-winning and critically acclaimed collections of poetry, most recently Uncle Ernest (Virtual Artists Collective, Chicago, 2013). His New and Selected Poems (TCU Press, 2008) was a semi-finalist for the National Book Award.