Kate Mulvaney Leaves Her Handprint in the Mud | Jack B. Bedell

Whenever she crosses the swamp,
she stops every quarter mile
to press her palm into the mud

at the base of palmettos. She knows
the swamp’s dead will rise up
toward the warmth she leaves,

the fan of her fingers glowing
in their dark heaven. Whatever there is
to learn from these depths

she draws toward the surface,
prays for it to follow her home
and spill itself out of the nets

she casts in her dreams, all open-eyed
and mouthing the sharp air.

 


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. Jack’s work has appeared in Southern ReviewBirmingham Poetry ReviewPidgeonholesThe ShoreCotton XenomorphOkay DonkeyEcoTheoThe HopperTerrainsaltfront, and other journals. His latest collection is No Brother, This Storm (Mercer University Press, 2018). He served as Louisiana Poet Laureate 2017-2019.

Kate Mulvaney, Shrivening | Jack B. Bedell

Sometimes women from town tie up
to her dock with fish still fresh
from the water. Before they can tell her

what they need, she slices the fish
from jaw to tail, pulls its organs out
through the gash, and squeezes

its heart. There’s usually enough blood
to draw crosses on all the women’s
brows, enough twitch left

in the fish to last through her prayers.
Garfish are best for this, their blood
old and patient from waiting

in the deepest waters, its stain
thick enough to stay the night.

 


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. Jack’s work has appeared in Southern ReviewBirmingham Poetry ReviewPidgeonholesThe ShoreCotton XenomorphOkay DonkeyEcoTheoThe HopperTerrainsaltfront, and other journals. His latest collection is No Brother, This Storm (Mercer University Press, 2018). He served as Louisiana Poet Laureate 2017-2019.