Now I think of Charon, gristle-eyed and chalk-haired,
hoisting his terrible oar, thunking
the souls who refused to cross with him the waters
of Acheron. And weren’t these sulfuric waters hellish—
the color of bile and smelling of unkempt chicken coops;
dull, phlegmish clouds suddenly appearing
and crawling along the spring-bottom, as if the very sands
were scrambling to surface for air?
But back then, I trusted Leonard, the stove-up old
cowboy making an extra buck
in the summer months, ferrying us kids in the back of his
pickup truck to north Florida’s out-of-the-way
swimming holes (small and stagnant though they could be). Still,
when we came to this sulfur spring, I saw
strangers: young women—the sopping hems of their cotton
sundresses bunched high between their thighs—
wading in the water and washing their hair. We lingered
on the water’s edge, trying not to stare—
waited with the ibises, their strange mesmeric nodding as they
dipped and dipped their slivered carrot beaks into the mud.
Eventually, the sodden naiads emerged, wrapped their heads in old
T-shirts or dish towels. They climbed barefoot
up the banks, disappearing into weathered, idling trucks parked
along the little overpass that shadowed the creek
Leonard then said it was our turn, and no child hesitated to lurch
out into the sepia-green spring, or tumble
from the ledge of the crumbling bridge or canopy of moss-tinseled trees.
Save me. I told Leonard I’d gotten my period,
and would he mind if I sat in the truck? He shrugged, turned away,
and peed on a rock as I passed.
~ Rebecca R. Bauman
In 2007, while an undergraduate at Pittsburg State University, Rebecca R. Bauman received an Editorial Fellowship at Esquire, and while working at the magazine, she slowly realized her interest in journalism was not as strong as her affection for poetry. She graduated from PSU in 2010 with a BA in English/Creative Writing and was awarded a graduate assistantship at the University of Florida, where, while earning her MFA in Poetry Writing, she was named one of University of Virginia Press’s “Best New Poets,” as well as the recipient of UF’s 2012 Calvin A. VanderWerf Award for Excellence in Graduate Instruction, the first in the history of the Creative Writing program to earn this honor. Since graduating in 2013, she’s moved to the Florida countryside with her native-Kansan man-companion, seven dogs, four cats, and a very large parrot. This fall she will start work on her PhD in Children’s Literature and Culture, also at UF
Stephen Meats, recently retired from teaching and administration at Pittsburg State University, is the author of a mixed genre collection of poems and stories, Dark Dove Descending and Other Parables (Mammoth Publications, 2013) and a collection of poems, Looking for the Pale Eagle (Woodley Press, 1993; expanded edition, Mammoth Publications, 2014). His poems, stories, and scholarly writings have appeared in numerous print and online publications, including more than two dozen articles on Whitman, Faulkner, and other writers in The Literary Encyclopedia. He has been poetry editor of The Midwest Quarterly since 1985. For his guest editorship, in addition to poems with Kansas associations, he asked contributors to submit work dealing with shore birds and water birds, if moved to do so, in recognition of his and his wife Ann’s recent move to Florida.