person Jack B. Bedell, three poems

Jack B. Bedell is Professor of English and Coordinator of Creative Writing at Southeastern Louisiana University where he also edits Louisiana Literature and directs the Louisiana Literature Press. His latest collection is No Brother, This Storm (Mercer University Press, 2018). He served as Louisiana Poet Laureate 2017-2019.


Rolled Over into Waves

—White River, 1915

It had to be something the farmer did,
        they thought, when all the catfish
                      disappeared and the water
on the river went choppy with crests
        every evening about sundown.

But then there were the bellows
        like a hurt mule when nobody
                      for miles could have bought
or fed an animal like that, and to what end
        up against the water like they were.

Wind came and never left that summer,
        and all the kids started singing songs
                      about a water elephant
rolling around under the river’s surface
        big as two tractors and hungry

as dirt with no seed, thirsty as August
        without a drop of rain.
                      Folks still fished,
though faith was a piss-poor bait
        and an even sorrier supper.



Always a fever,
        the wild kicking of legs
and tears to tend.

Her soft prayers
        fill the room to overflowing.

No gift required to buy her willow bark,
fig sap,
                        le sureau to calm all chills,

she only needs an invitation, a dark room

and faith.

                        Copper pots of water,
rosary beads, elderberry tea—

it all gives way to her song,
          the hope that all things
pass                 except the caring,

and all trials are doorways

                        to grace.


Marsh Horses

On the way to drop bags of oyster shells
        into the water near Montegut
                      to seed a new barrier

against the water’s need, you’ll see
        small peninsulas held together
                      by marsh grass rising

out of the lake, ghosts
        of a full coastline reaching
                      out into the open pass.

Here and there, herds
        of marsh horses toe
                      along the waterline,

heads down, nosing new grass
        growing at the land’s edges.
                      They’ve learned to swim

from mass to mass for fresh growth,
        step gingerly on soft ground
                      to stay upright.

Nothing about these animals
        belongs on so little land,
                      but here they’ll be, alive.



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