by Geoff Munsterman
Descending through the perfect
dark gulf water
of the childhood where weekends
bait & schoolmates drowned
when the adults weren’t watching,
I learned my skill for catching with nets
angered stars starving on gases
asphyxiating algaed memories.
Like a hook that scratches past
a night-crawler’s belly
snags guts as it punctures,
I punched myself a life inside
as the blood squeezed from
whatever excavated relics
my past manages
releases & eases
in its tangled wake.
The trawl net is a shimmering sea-creature,
a hair-matted swamp beagle,
a shivering angel clutching shoreline
like a life-preserver.
In cypress trees above us
a net of silver moss grows.
Its serrated braids blaze limbs
redolent as flame-charred hog skin
hit with spices as bonfires roil.
Whatever spools emptied
when the net was made
spin infinite in the minds of its weavers—
& when nets wither with neglect,
the ministry of redwing blackbirds
sifted from the sky shuffle their
& trickle droplets of feathers
over overgrown orange groves.
Death kicks his habit out like jams,
settles for tossing nets
for shrimp where pay enough for
smokes & longnecks costs you
your back & the shirt off it.
And Death knows this place
because his brothers moved here
during Prohibition when rum-runners
sucked scum from bullet wounds
to keep the Quarter jazz joints boozed.
His brothers’ houses rust
the river-bends of towns
submerged & vanished
like a dropped knife shimmering
as it falls through Mississippi River chop—
knives that come back
when tide drives them up
like filaments of iron drawn by magnets.
Some years back the net catches my father.
We spread him where the waves
wander best since his life was spent
sawing boards to dust & knocking
six-packs back in flatboats.
As ash he gets to wander
while his life was ordered
like a weaving pattern—
the net not intricate enough
to catch his essence anymore.
Same goes for my Uncle—
bagged ash that can’t tell you
how to navigate the river
no matter how nice you ask it.
Poured from his zipper
& the ashes dash upstream
past river towns the ships
he captained pass through.
Sometimes a 90-proof hymn
isn’t strong enough
to get your sins sober.
When Death casts his net
you are your own salvation’s
groomsman & the gold ring
tickling your suit’s breast pocket
isn’t fished until the bride’s veil
is lifted & her eyes writhe
the parish church’s prismed lights
& the only uttered vow
is a jukebox psalm categorized as
a folk/country disco-teching, punk rock contemporary, abstract expressionism, bluegrassin’
zombie-movie, levee-billy, dirty boogie, jesus-ain’t-want-me-for-a-sunbeamin’, resurrection stomp.
Tunes too good for Death
to not tap his bruised boots to.
Might even flirt with settling down.
If Death asks you be his groomsman,
you tell him Naw.