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Lawrence Hetrick


Little River Towns

Sun-stunned on the mirror
Of sky-blue winter flood,
Days down from Okefenokee,

I find their bluff merely
A sandbar, their cabin
Rising from it on stilts.

Plastic sacks sit on the stair.
Unscreened windows gape
Under propped-out shutters.

Master and Mistress snooze
On canvas folding cots,
Dreaming summer shallows.

I spin and dip my blade,
Revolving on the mirror
Of empty sky dissolving

Whatever else of them
I might remember but can't
Afford to because they

Are who I was almost
But will not become:
Mislaid local friends,

Leisured after twenty years,
Their tanned wives still
In white skirts and bracelets.

I pass them on the green,
Glare-stunned squares
Of the little river towns,

Unable to call a name
Or ask who they became.



Derelict Tributaries

    (Alapaha, Withlacoochee, Suwannoochee)

    — after Poussin's Et in Arcadia Ego

Mausolean shadows drown
Palatka's Azalea Ravine.
Grief obliterates grief.

    Rivulets wriggle down
    Like snakes under logs.
    Nothing awaits me there

Or here at Echo Lake where I study late
Upstairs by a window from which extend
Frescoed walls, incandescently green

    With swamp and blue with sky
    Intense and incorrect.
    I lift the screen and crawl

Over the sill, marking horizons
Where derelict tributaries pour
From April hills August rivers

    Whose names will echo
    Songs of summer evenings,
    Fire-lit, on the river dunes.



Brickyard Landing in the Rain

Hungover at the locals' camp,
I take all morning making coffee
Waiting for the tide to turn downstream
And take me, everything the same
As last year: water-blackened live oak
Trunks, water-weighted tarp over
A plank table, truck tires burned down
To ashen paste and rusted coils.

Brown pine needles on coals
Smoke, char, wrinkle, and flare
Into a wider, emptier afternoon.
I close my eyes considering
Walking the soft white sand road
To where you may live even now,
Going about your quiet life,

Standing on the screened porch
Crowded by broad-leaved plants,
Some dusty, some not, trying,
Momentarily, your scissor's edge
On a patch of green material
While more rain falls in the grass
Between the shell walk and your car.

I stir dusty smoke.  A soaked limb
Thuds on a root-dome in the bottom.
Big drops pock the full salt river,
Tar-black, riffling like a breath...
By the limerock landing the drops
Slip downstream seeming
Always to have been moving that way.



Audubon's Exposition

    Bulowville, East Florida, 1834

The boat, six hands and three white men,
Put off with a fair wind and a pure sky
In search of new and valuable birds.
We meandered down a creek eleven miles,

The water torpid but absolutely clear,
The high trees vivid with fall grapes,
And sailed into Halifax, an arm of the sea,
Where our way was obstructed by fish.

The tide leaving us, we turned back
With a northeast gale in our teeth,
Our only resort to go waist deep hauling
Over oyster banks to shore by dark.

The devil himself could not burn a palm.
What a night.  Our provisions drowned,
We rolled ourselves in our cloaks beneath
Von Bulow's light and beautiful craft.

Providence and care have made us well,
Except my left leg stiff from the tides,
Dunes, and thorny wastes that appear
Created to no purpose but being desert,

Some part of what will claim us all.


Lawrence Hetrick grew up in northern Florida, living in Gainesville, Melrose, and Micanopy while exploring the nearby rivers.  He has taught poetry at the University of Florida and currently serves as editor of The Chattahoochee Review at Georgia Perimeter College in Atlanta.  He has published poetry in Southwest Review, The Sewanee Review, New Virginia Review, Southern Humanities Review, and many others.

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