thirteen kidney beans laid on the threshold

            the loup-garou counts and counts

                        and counts and –

tide’s morning vocabulary: the thrown and rescinded words over and over and: gravel crunches a bit differently every time the basketball bounces, I was taught by its sporadic coming-up. For some reason, I think of wobbling women in stilettos and how they’d walk with bulging calves over the gravel that’d crunch a bit differently every time the heel hits. Like most boys, I’ve tried on my mother’s heels and felt them out. I think nothing of this. I’ve also, many times, like most boys, rode many times on the tops of my father’s feet, his steps, my steps.

froggers come back after long nights tossing big bulls into chests

                                    church of the empty

two generations separate the second graders from their teachers

                                                                                    some get the paddle’s correction

11, 12 … 1, 2, 3 …                                          lycanthrope is full to the brim with bloodlust

                                                                                                      moon rises, looks for prey

shout as loud as

but it will be swallowed

by the blanket

the water makes

an argument

washes up

on shore

carrying globs

of seaweed

in tears are archives?

LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF WILDLIFE & FISHERIES (22:14): Houma Wildlife and Fisheries, how can we help?

RICHARD AUCOIN (22:14): [background noise] Yessir, I believe I seen the garou out back [mixed voices] shhh, I said, it gone get us.

LA DEPT. W&F (22:15): Can you describe what you have seen as closely as possible?

R. AUCOIN (22:15): Yessir, I seen something full with hair and standing on big two feet then it came [background noise] [long pause] –

LA DEPT. W&F (22:16): Sir, I’m sorry, can you – sir?

                                                                        morning formed itself

            something moved over wiregrass

                                                                                                                        and it wasn’t fog

dogs bark through screen doors                                   moon mad

she is tired of walking to Lapeyrouse’s when the tap isn’t drinkable

            it is hot and gnats                                            how else might

                                    need constant swatting                        the day spend itself

cocks run the strays underneath camps

                                                                                                leaving them to the cottonmouths

That was nice, us laying on the algae-slicked rocks. Our feet pointed toward the Caribbean. Me in my swim trunks and you in the bikini you’d later spill out of. We made another game of letting the water wash over us. We hadn’t yet realized the power of pretending to be dead. You liked the moments when the water would reach all the way to your ears. How, when the water filled the basins of your ears, you’d lose yourself for a second, now knowing which way’s up. I told you all of it was my favorite: but mostly the threatening prospect of dying beside you. Can you imagine both of us buoys only for the minutes out lungs would work to keep the water out? Can you imagine the streaked night that’d be above us, a night ready to unspool its darkness and a morning ready to unravel its best clouds?

hack heads off with the garden hoe

            keep in mason jars when the house needs

                        good gris-gris

the town has a new ghost – unnamed

see the beginnings

of jaundice under

the nails or

too many

cigarettes?

Food N Fun goes up cattycorner to the bait shop with no name

            the one at the warning light

the one who didn’t come back three trick-or-treats ago …

the mower moans its bass when no grass tangles itself underneath

and the egret matches, constructing, as if to say,

Let us do the only thing possible in the face of another day:

call

the moon’s limb quivers in apogee

because the loup-garou was first on it

it’ll run rampant through the breccia

called childhood memories

                                                voodoo is in the hand              ready

                                                            to hurl a million bellyaches

                                    dealer                           in diabolatry

                                                                                    flophouse         ramshackled

                                                flimsy and        berserkly grizzly           love dormant               at last

when it seems dead lift the driftwood near the lean-to

            there is life

                        there are earthworms bound

                                                                                                                                    together

There is a horizon I always looked to. It was far and I watched through my bedroom window, inland, for about 3 years before I told my mother about it. You don’t just look at a horizon, because a horizon, my mother told me, is just a word for something else. There are camps lining the horizon or The grass composing the horizon glows in morning light, my mother would say, It is impossible to say, Hey, look, a horizon, without talking about something else. I would tell her that what the horizon is for me is the up-down of a machine far off. Son, come get your toast, my mother would demand. Lufkin 912D 365-192, my father said, barging into our conversation. He knew the pumpjack’s make and model simply from the intervals of its bob in and out of sight. That’s a hardworking donkey pump, he said. 

some congruency between

the dog that found its place

in the dried out stone

fountain and the way

the elderly must

be coaxed into a home?

first look, combatting the near freeze blowing in off the Gulf

            second look, a speaking, a language of tethering

                        third look, just that, a third look

no matter how soft you step                                                    you shake the mosquito world

fiddler crabs run long-ways to

            their black holes

                        peeking ever-so-often

                                    for serenity

                                                                                                the fist came

                                                                                                                        down   the contrast

                                                                                                            blue-black        on        yellow

                                                                                    and      this is a grounds           for peeling and

                                                                                                                                    peeling and –

                                                                        it is now           the red             that trickles to drain

                                                                                                                                    the want;

                                                                                    to not be          gotten enough              of:

                                                                                                                                    carve

                                                                                                                                    chip

                                                                                                                                    incise

                                                                        someone said   the closer to mirror     

                                                                                                the blurrier       ; pressed so close

                                                                                                                                    scoured

                                                                                                                                                belief

ten years too late ICEEs become talk of the town

fishermen watch the forecast like the Superbowl

            just like how they watched WWE and NWO years ago

                                                                        inside the Bud Light, smashed cigarette butts,

                                                                                                                          stale beer

there’s a sixty year high school reunion happening (8 women)

            they play Cajun craps with pocket change and nicked die

                                                may                  the word not    come

                                                from                else-                 where:

                                                one                  cannot              be:

                                                            disappointed

men shoot Old Crow from work boots until their throats say no more

                        or until they sink the boat trailer at the landing

            some sit on their front porches all day and count cars                                                        

My mother speaks of a time I fell sick as a baby: She didn’t sleep a full night in 8 months. Only 2 hours here and there, always interrupted by my cough or cry. She tells me how I’d always want to be on my side in the cradle. Same in the crib months after. She describes the phlegm, mucus, my susceptible body. She describes my bronchitis and fever that climbed to 100, 101, 102. She tells me of her worries about getting me to swallow the antibiotic. She laughs and says I was as stubborn as she was. As stubborn and we both are now, sharing a surname and all. She says that she thought of the throat in general, the way she saw my tantrums coming, the way the antibiotic worked its chemical sorcery for ten days and my crying, coughing, fever hadn’t stopped. She remembers yellow-green gook on her shirts and how she tried everything.

headline reads BOY, 11, RIDES ATV OFF BANK INTO CANAL, DIES

whatever needs naming will be named

                        it is said

his school ribbons, trophies, awards, certificates are somewhere on a shelf

                                                                                                                                    collecting dust

the Sabbath full of its excesses:

                                                football,

                                                            hallelujahs,

                                                                        ennui,

                                                                                    dishwashing,

                                                                                                sleep,

                                                                                                            …

don’t mais la

don’t hug the submerged, barnacled pier posts while canal-swimming

don’t leave the filet knife plugged in if there are children around

don’t gah dehy dohn your elders

don’t let the traiteur get carried away with her remedies

don’t let her tell you you must sleep under the relentless half moon

don’t be canaille

don’t stomp when Mawmaw is trying to make do-do

don’t pass Henderson exit and skip out on boudin and cracklin

don’t be moon mad

don’t scrape the pot’s gratin and not give some to the dogs

don’t come in muddy, wash down with the hose pipe

don’t throw away last year’s Mardi Gras beads, but do save the dishes

ceramic frogs out front will keep the coons away

                        what moves:                                                    when you look on it?

                                                                                    kindness not of one dimension

                                                                                    leaks like weeping and blasts

                                                                                    like a convulsing turret

                                                                                    God bless you: God bless you:

                                                                                    God save you

extreme measures include elevating trash cans

– the sound a family makes in rupture, the more and more silence is capable of, the various meanings of washing, the smoothing the answer does opens more questions

“You can just about have dinner with those bullfrogs before you catch ‘em.” – Pierre, frogger, Cocodrie

TODAYS SPECIAL

CATFISH N TURTLE

COURTBILLION

she reads the obituaries to her grandmother for the twelfth day in the a row

                                                                      for the twelfth day                     they cry

I should be a bit more stubborn to the prophet who was close enough for comfort and to the ghost who let itself in without a key to the front door. We, both Alan and I, saw the apparition as we pulled up to he and his girlfriend, Monica’s, place. Monica started to yell even before we walked through the front door. Who are you? Who are you? Who are you? – ad infinitum. Then, the fluidity of her pronouns as she described what he/she/it was. What Alan hadn’t told Monica, despite being with her for 6 years (living with her for 3) was that he’d known a woman, now a witch, black magic practitioner somewhere in Florida. As I recalled this episode, now with a worldview that gives less space to those events, I cannot help but think of how Monica, as long as she “knows” Alan, will continue to know this ghost, this he/she/it. Again and again in the same way; forever.

hose down the dog just like you hose down

the muddy white rubber boots

gravity pushes off and pulls over clothes of the coast

with anxiety the same is done day in and out

                                                                        afternoon pregnant with simple dreams:

                                                that grandkids don’t end up in Big ‘Gola,

                                                                        that milk doesn’t go up,

                                                that the rotting balcony makes it through until next season,

                                                                        that, for the sake of the town,

                                                Father Will don’t fall into the ways of the flesh like Father Jacob,

                                                                        that Lent fasting goes by fast fast

                                                                                    doxology of breaks: and break

                                                                                                                                    ing – wonder

how the sugar

gets from cane

to tables

an answer can be fabricated: however reasonable

tangled in the barbed wire fence:

the skeleton of an unrecognizable animal.

bones sucked crawfish head-dry by the wind

                                    underneath the carcass,

                                                wildflowers flourish

            to not look at the flesh for five months

            to come back to it

                                                                                                the way that what we see becomes

                                                                                                the way that we not-see easily

            figuring meaning distorts more

            fishermen arrive at the same hole

                                                                                                the way speech is almost a habit

                                                                                                the way success is almost depressing                                                                                                                in its way of ushering

                                                                                                            another cycle of failures          

Then, my mother speaks of consulting a healer: She tells me how she never thought she’d consult a healer, but it was harder and harder to think of me as a gift. She remembers 6 Advil and dosage recommendations. She reminds me of growing up on the Teche, close to traiteurs from Jeanerette and St. Martinville, old and chubby. She recalls their Cajun French; liminal and inhabited. She tells me about method, measurable result, testability, and things in her life that’ve caused her to thrown those out. She grabbed a foil-lined pan at the traiteur’s request. The traiteur, she remembers, wore a crucifix strung on knotted twine around his neck and how it sat on his Adam’s apple, vibrating at the words of his prayers. She shows me pictures of me as a baby all in the same front-buttoning bodysuit, a onesie she calls it. She then explains how the traiteur asked for it. He ripped it to shreds and piled the shreds on the foiled pan. She told me that, before she knew it, he was cutting my hair and I kept my head still. The almost-translucent strands of hair fell on the pulled apart clothes, on top of the foiled pan. She explains alternatives to me and the philosophies of their mysteries, but also the inevitability of the traiteur, the hair – its DNA, too, and how it somehow threads each of us and holds us together — the metals of pan and foil, how the here and now slips up right before us. She describes the way the traiteur lit a match and guided it toward all that was piled up now, his hand shielding the flicker from the stuffy air and small winds accompanying such a ritual. A slow engulfing, meticulous enough to keep nothing from the flame. She tells me that he told her blow it out before everything was made ash of. She passed her through the smoke, and again. The traiteur cradled in his arms. He infused the room with more prayer. My mother explains that we know so little of what happens on the small scale: which part of smoke sets off the smoke alarm, which of the traiteur’s words cleansed.

here, no sidewalk giving a warning of the shoulder

here, no center line, nothing dictating where or how

here, dirt and gravel and grass, nothing such as road and not-road

            opossum in every ditch

who knows when a hurricane will come through

chop off another slice of the coast

who knows when a hurricane will come through

flatten the next row of fishing camps

she is convinced there is an intruder in the walls

                                                                                                            the new ghost may be a cat

            rosaries hung wherever sexuality repressed

                                                            mold making its way to the loaf’s end feed to the gulls

Mother Mary has been flooded over

            blunted to a lump of Quik-crete

                                                                                                another dog, this one doors down from the screen-door wailer, joins the howl

                                                            calm canal-cut topwater shivers under the dogs’ calling

all is directed toward becomings of three kinds

see the sparrow

duck up and down

into the trash bin,

stand to call the flowers

painfully purple,

excruciating even

a frog’s spaded feet slap topwater, sliding it across –

(one’s mind skirting around the Christ archetype)

                                                                                                – a few more and it reaches the lonely shore with its cypress-knee gnomes, moss awnings, …

                                                            (shape)shift at night

My father stood at the end of the family camp’s pier. At its farthest reach, a covering, underneath the covering a rusting countertop with a sink and a trashcan. He fileted redfish and speckled trout, maybe a drum or two. He couldn’t stop talking about how his new double-welled sink sped up the process. It’s deep deep, he says. Look, he adds, a chute with a pipe going right down into the water there. This, on top of his new Mister Twister filet knife. The blades’ back and forth make a sound like a rolled R enclosed in the mouth, a silent working thing like a new John Deere riding mower. Poo-yi, he says. To this day, I do not know how easily the electric knife moves through the speck’s see-through meat. I do know the click of the hook yanked out of the red’s mouth, the way it must not hurt, its lips like plastic – threshold for the low croak whispering catch, release, catch, release.

            the bronzed crucifix transforms the threshold

                        into something other and –

                                                                                                the dumpster rental company

                                                                                                boasts a totem of recycled cross

widower wishes for wife’s chill

essentially a disobedient act

                                                                        don’t carry away the traiteur with her remedies

passerby is told jumbo shrimp at 5.95/lb but who knows where?

countenance                            best described as weather-beaten, the all of someone slouching toward payday

                                                                                    prick of burr dents skin

the gutted junkyard’s congregants lined and solemn

in their pews, yet no one is truly lovely

everyone’s got a prayer on their head, a haunting

fishing reports are true

as Jesus is true as

carpet-dented knees

are true as the heaven

that catches bedside pleas

are true as flyswatter-

patterned buttock is true

as the curfew is true as

the loup-garou is

true as …

shrimpers step from boat to dock, dock to boat,

            dew rags, taut and muscular, crowning their heads

black eyed peas on the 1st with tough parts of bacon squeezed between buttered white – fava

                                                            beans in wallets, pockets, tight fists – some still have nothing

                        the morals oversaturated with bleakness: make the world when

                        faced with the familiar landscape         of where two walls meet

                                                                                                            frog legs taste like chicken                                                                                           just as much as anything else tastes like it

“Don’t you” –                          “But it looks like those shake-up snowy things.”

                                                                        – daughter, turning over and over

                                                                           a jar of pickled quail eggs,

                                                                           and mother reprimanding; Piggly Wiggly,

                                                                           just outside of Houma, Louisiana

everything powerful here is invisible, which is not to say imaginary; dually trucks rut the gravel roads, the divet yanks another steering wheel

on a scale of 1-10, how pretty your women, how pretty your tides, how good your fishing?

[1-3: poor | 4-7: good | 8-10: excellent]

                                    Cocodrie, Terrebone Bay, Louisiana (8762928)

                                                                                    – 5: women, tides, fishing

the same scaly hands feed the Sunday wafer, scrape the scales

                                                                        everything powerful here is abbreviated,

                                                                        which is not to say premature

                        chances are you’ve got your grave dug for you, the only thing is keeping other                                    things out of it before you’re ready

We woke at 4am because we needed to be the first ones to Bayou Dularge. After only 3 hours on the water, we kept 247 specks, all big enough. We knew it was over limit and illegal. Remember the camp named DAD’S PAD WHEN MOM’S MAD? Where it used to be? It’s all skeleton now. We laughed when we first saw its bare stilts and the toilet atop one of them, a true and lonesome throne. Must’ve been a bad storm to do it in. You told me if I ever needed a whooping, we’d take that half-hour boat to whatever’s left of the camp’s floor, you’d sling me over your knee and give me my whooping. 247 and we couldn’t even close the ice chest. Specks flapped at our feet. You told me to keep my head on a swivel in case one tried to jump out. We cleared out the console with our tackle boxes and lifejackets and filled it with water and more specks. 247 and no one believed us. I wanted pictures but you said, No it’s between just us.

                                                                                    some have simply resorted to houseboat

            the devil is beating his wife: sunny out and rainy

            Jesus is moving furniture: sunny out and thundering

We had to keep ourselves occupied, you know, living in a fishing town on the coast. One bad move and the devil could suspend inertia and bloop, we’d slide right into the Gulf. I tried my hardest not to curse in front of family, but did more under my breath. We lit spiders on fire with just sunlight and shards of glass, poured alcohol down ant piles and watched them float and sizzle, wore our bare feet on the gravel road to the marina, filled rubber boots with minnows and let them go in our kiddie pool. If the night before held high tide, there’d be frogs hopping against the screen porch in the morning. We had a field day with bubble wrap on the odd occasion that a truck dropped us a package. I hadn’t realized how much hurt the world held.

there’s something to be said for unsaid

                                                                                    should we do the Lord’s work and plant

                                                                                    the blessed candle overnight? If so,

                                                                                    how many? –

                                                                                    (the way what is destructive blurs

                                                                                    what is above it)

don’t you see it? the camps are risen, risen in order to escape the corpse-laden marsh –


Originally from New Iberia, Louisiana, Nicholas Molbert now lives and writes in Central Illinois. He has work published in or forthcoming from American Literary Review, Cincinnati Review, Missouri Review, Ninth Letter, Permafrost, and South Carolina Review among others.