All along the coast, reeds are laid down by wind:
the sky one long cloud, gray to the horizon,

soft breeze and shallow surf, low land
my children will never see, each tide
a quiet good-bye. Pelicans refuse

to leave their nests, closer
together each season, their sand
washing out to gulf. Soon enough

storms will brew offshore, water
will color all maps new.


        —Pass Manchac

–after Mai Der Vang’s “Offering the Ox”

Before the swamp releases them from its silt,

                                       Mist off water,
                          Squalls of heron sound,

Before they float to the surface
.            As bright lilies on the lake,

They swell, ardent with secrets,
Stories unwilling to tell themselves.

                         Fingers curled to palms,
Legs stretched straight for diving,

They know the shape of given space.

                         Skin palls toward blue
The color of rain sound.

In such a small lake
With its belly full of places to sleep,

They need not rush their dreams of light.

Waves spread out towards the bank.

Silence in their loss
.             Rises from the water as psalm.


Dream, Distraction

My father believed
snakes hunted in pairs.

Any snake lying in the open

kept a partner coiled
                  in a nearby bush
or dangling overhead
.                     from a roof’s edge.

The body has no defense
                   against a snake dropped
down the back of a shirt.

Live your whole life before
                  trying to pin a snake
against a wall, he said.

Snakes invented
.                                    distraction.

In dreams, though, I still focus
                  too much on the snake
curled up in its tree.

It does not help me to know
                   the fruit it offers

holds the reflection
                  of real sin slicing towards me
in the grass.


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 collections are Elliptic (Yellow Flag Press, 2016), Revenant (Blue Horse Press, 2016), and Bone-Hollow, True: New & Selected Poems (Texas Review Press, 2013). He has recently been appointed by Governor John Bel Edwards to serve as Louisiana Poet Laureate 2017-2019.