is the editor of Fashioned Pleasures: Twenty-four Poets Play Bouts-Rimés with a Shakespearean Sonnet (Parallel Press, 2005).
His poems have appeared most recently in the Chautauqua Literary Journal and 32 Poems. He chairs the English Department at Troy University, where he serves as poetry editor of the Alabama Literary Review.
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To see, as I worked the bait knife, white flesh
ooze from a squid’s head, the hook break the tough
jelly of its eye; to watch, while the rod
strained, a shadow surface, the symmetry
of wings, the bladed tail, the body turning,
breaking into light, its hurt mouth chewing
at air—how it hung there, stunned on the cut
line, flashed, vanished—was to understand
sufficiencies in sea-oats shaken on oyster beds,
clouds grinding in glare, thunderous greens and yellows
rolling through marsh grass marked with egrets,
quick, still, quick, still.
Clatter overhead: the thousand dangling hooks
lurch on the long chain above the steel trough
that winds between two lines of workers
in white paper hats, who stink from yesterday
and the day before of the chlorine water gurgling past them,
re-filling now with beaks, feet, entrails of hens. It’s 6 a.m.
Beside me, Pearline’s shears float up to snip a neck.
She daydreams on her stool. Across the hooks
her son, Roy Lee, whispers something to his cousin Wicks,
looks my way, grins and shuts his new Case knife
that yesterday he said he’d stab me with. He doesn’t know
I’ve judged the distance, I can reach
his sleeves and have him choking face-down in the trough
before Pearline and Wicks can pull me off.
I slide my left thumb under tepid skin
slick with fat, open the body cavity,
then scrape my vacuum gun across the spine
and ribs, scrape until the sticky lungs come loose.