Sara Cooper

Don’t be frightened by the tombstone
manufacturer down the street. She doesn’t have you 
in mind as she puts hammer to stone, chiseling
each name like a one-word prayer.

Or by our neighbors and their crawfish clan.
Pincerclaws and compound eyes—
they are bottom-feeders, we’ve heard.

Or by the gator gar with the razor teeth
expelled to the bayou banks after a hard rain,
thrashing in shallow puddles that will disappear
with the risen sun. Or by the man who plays

God after the storm, scouring the shores,
lifting, with gloved hands, each riling fish,
delivering it back to the swim.

Don’t be alarmed by the cemetery, gussied up in mylar and silk;
or by the woman’s shining face suspended
above her husband’s grave like a heart-shaped balloon,
deflating. Or a graveyard flower, steadfast and false.

Or by the bounty the bayou hides—

milk jugs, soda cans, styrofoam cups, inner tubes, trash bags, a dog’s
furless leg, a woman’s dirtied purse, a fertilizer bucket, a rotting belt, a
laundry soap box, a bicycle upturned and without wheels.

Or by the game we play when we walk the graves—
Find the Craziest Name. Wellborn. Lightfoot. Boney. Askew.
And Lucky. We are alive.

Poems used with permission of the authors, and may not be re-used without their permission.