Waiting Among the Dead


This revised poem Copyright © 2010 by Michael Smetzer


Every morning dead crawdads are piled by my door,
like nestlings dropped from a tree.
I shovel them into bags and carry them out back.
For every day a new bag lining my alley.
They stink through the fly-covered plastic.
My neighbor Allen says eat them fresh.
He comes and sits on my steps.
Lines of ants search the bleached grass.
Allen scratches dead skin off his legs,
and we watch ants carry this away.
All day the sun on cracked clay and hot steps.
A dripping hose has drawn four-inch slugs.
They lie around in the morning like dead moths.
Allen says they are shell-less snails.  Serve them French.
The summer sun shines all day and on into the night.
I walk the streets and feel the sweat blossom
into mushrooms above the band of my cap.
I don’t shave or bathe, and whatever I drink
tastes of instant coffee.
When I piss it is dark yellow and stains the leaves.
Where I piss daily earth worms gather –
pink and fishy white.
I wear no sandals and won’t wash my feet.
As I lie in bed I can feel small insects moving
between my toes.
Skunks gather at my door to eat crawdads.
In the morning the skunks are dead.
I shovel their corpses into bags.
Allen will not accept my bags.
They are overflowing my alley.
All day I do nothing but wait for rain.
My nose bleeds and my tongue is cloth.
I follow a crow to the graveyard where he calls
from Allen’s stone.
The grass around his grave is rich with green.
At night a crawdad peeks out of his hole,
Allen’s eyes shine like rubies.

(first published in Tellus)


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