To the Boat
for Darrell Bourque
My reply was au bateau, when mother cried on y va.
The dawn broke cold across the wharfs, the sky
was red. I did not know what unknown shore
would find me, what adventure was in store
when the shores of France passed before my eyes.
I was young but felt myself too much a man to cry.
Maman, would that I had stayed with you, but I
made my own mind, and when I saw the sun was high
………………..my reply was au bateau.
I will not repent the choices that were mine.
We make our way and choose what’s left behind.
I will make a home here as I had before.
I will make many children here, ten, or more,
I will sow and reap the earth, I will marry many wives.
………………..My reply, was au bateau.
In the Pines
When I sit listening
to blue jays in the live oaks
I think about the pine forests
I played in as a child, how the brown
needles were soft under foot,
perfectly quiet enough for hide-and-seek
or playing Indians.
Once an old man taught us to find
whale bone fossils in shallow creeks,
how to tell them from pebbles.
His wrinkled face would crease
as he picked them from the clay
and told us that everything
must return to the sea.
Maman would call us in at night
to feed us fried bologna and mashed potatoes.
She no longer exists as she was then,
and the boy at the table is gone too.
I hear the river
if it is close enough to hear,
or if I am imagining it.
I think I am imagining it.
There are people I want to call,
old friends that know
the swell of Shooter Creek
in the spring rains,
the sound of mosquitoes
on dark porches.
They would not know me
if they heard my voice across the line.
I can see my parents
watching the birds.
I know the slurp of their coffee,
I know their long silences.
This image will not leave me.
J. Bruce Fuller is a Louisiana native. His chapbooks include The Dissenter’s Ground(Hyacinth Girl Press, 2016), Notes to a Husband (Imaginary Friend Press 2013), Lancelot(Lazy Mouse Press, 2013), 28 Blackbirds at the End of the World (Bandersnatch Books 2010), and Flood which is the winner of the 2013 Swan Scythe Chapbook Contest. He is the co-editor of Vision/Verse 2009-2013: An Anthology of Poetry (Yellow Flag Press 2013). His poems have appeared at Crab Orchard Review, Harpur Palate, Pembroke Magazine, Birmingham Poetry Review, The Louisiana Review, burntdistrict, Louisiana Literature, and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, among others. He has twice been nominated for Best of the Net. He received a MFA from McNeese and a PhD from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.