Burt is kind of a nerd as we skip rocks
on the Mississippi, watching whirlpool
swirls and scum bubbles from a-far,
breathing the familiar smell of decay.
We are the new, the freed in this wild congealed,
savoring thirteen, a week into middle school
as Burt talks of girls I don’t yet know.
My fishing line is taut, though nothing in the depths
responds, as if the day has to give permission.
Maybe it has to be dawn before the light
comes on—or deep in the night—
when the mossy big fish feel the cool
and control the dark swirl. We have
attached chicken flesh on hooks big as
a finger, and we are happy to be on
this mud flat as a barge a half mile away
pushes upstream. Nowhere are signs,
or prohibitions—just danger old and pared
and huge, encased in the smell of cured
dead carp. But we are not distracted,
talking about baseball, and then about girls,
like we have known how they think forever.
The lines remain quiet, anchored deep,
like the waiting could be all day. We feel
the weight of possibility, and shrug off
mosquitoes, and we don’t swagger,
or pretend as we map a future—mainly just
the fall dance when the music is wild,
and we are the crowd reaching to touch—
when the night dissolves looks from authorities,
and we and everyone dance like monkeys
alive in elastic skin, feeling the pull
in our guts, knowing that primal
from now on is the new norm.
Mark Vogel has short stories published in Cities and Roads, Knight Literary Journal, Whimperbang, SN Review, and Our Stories. His poetry has appeared in Poetry Midwest, English Journal, Cape Rock, Dark Sky, Cold Mountain Review, Broken Bridge Review, and other journals. He is currently Professor of English at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina and directs the Appalachian Writing Project.