River Syllable, or Catfish Swan Song

When I was a boy, I could not leave the table
until all of my milk was gone. About the same time,
it took me close to a year to understand the story
of Pete and his friend RePete (both sat on a log)
after first hearing it. And then I began to see girls
and their milk-thighs carefully flashing from
the alcoves of couches as I bravely smiled back,
jeans agog, parents upstairs, God in the neighbor’s attic.

Next came the asperges of tobacco smoke
with the windows up, fumbling with the presets
under my dashboard altar, that talkative shrine.
I was happy with KSHE as I drunkenly explained
the green in a highway sign, and how this,
too, will be redeemed. We had a conversation
and I didn’t get hard once. I later tasted these things in wine.

A filthy white catfish (like a fork, whiskers flopped
up onto the historic shore) is my brother-in-law
on this tilted brick, leaving us to wonder with the mud.
Riparian women of quiet responsibilities, ulcers
of thought, waiting for that half-word actually
understood. These days, my river and her sesquipedalian
murmurings wade into a jetsam connection. Swim any
brackish river with no bottom to touch and watch bottom-
feeders chuckle a prayer: “This is too dirty, even for us.”

First published by Miller’s Pond in April 2016