—an Acadian folk tale
The old man should not be met
at water’s edge.
He will come inland,
follow you back home
Always leave him to his thoughts,
the heron’s cry.
Wanderer no bog or hollow
the old man hasn’t crossed.
His hunger pulls him around,
bottomless, ready to consume a man’s weight.
Never try to feed his demands
or give him reason to cast spells.
There’s not enough rice in the field
nor chickens in the coop
to fill the hole in his gut.
Do not confuse his wanting with need.
The nature of the marsh
is to take things in,
interlace water and reed,
heat and sound,
stranger and friend.
The old man, though,
and we are all mullet
in his world.
Originally published in Peacock Journal
Summer, Botany Lesson
No matter how many blossoms I point out
exploding overhead on our neighborhood walk,
my daughter isn’t buying it. She’s in love
with the sound of bougainvillea, thinks
the word’s so pretty, there’s no way
it stands for something real. She believes
I made it up, strung long vowels
and kissy, soft consonants on a strand
of rhythm to make her giggle. I wish
I could tell a story that would win
her faith, but learn to let it lie. Some truths
beg for a fight. Some would rather
echo on branches in crooked light
while you just walk off holding hands.
Originally published in L'Éphémère Review
Space, Not Time
All semester I’ve pushed my students
toward space, into the inviting white
the page offers.
Still, they trap themselves
in bunches along the back wall of the room,
bind the lines of their poems to the left margin
where their words can sleep in the security
of the flock.
There’ve been moments
when I’ve c-o-a-x-e-d them to the bow of the ship,
gotten them to look off into the
that lies between where we are and the horizon,
but never, like WHITMAN, have they hung their heads
over the edge to see how their reflections
shimmer in the waves
every direction from the path they cut in the water.
Human nature draws them back to the safety
the pack affords, urges them to horde
their words in a single pile, storing them
for a winter that may never come.
I’m running out
of time to show them the nature of this class,
of this place, is to turn them loose into space.
When the last bell rings, they’ll have to leave
through the door alone,
out into the white light
where all life springs from the
Originally published in Wild Culture
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 No Brother, This Storm (Mercer University Press, Fall 2018). He has recently been appointed by Governor John Bel Edwards to serve as Louisiana Poet Laureate 2017-2019.