Christian Wessels

After the Levees Broke

Ma warned me to cool

my nerves when I saw him.

I thought He’s more hound

than gator, more levee

than bayou. In the emergency

room, she carried me down

into the marshlands. When

our names had been made

into a list, we waited hours

to meet him at the north end

of the bog. I was dehydrated—

I took off my T-shirt, my sandals.

I thought a mosquito to be

a sparrow, a bullfrog to be

a kitten—his name was called.

We made our way upstream

on a low-power air boat,

catching glimpses of children

drowned in the silted mud,

lovers lying still at the shore

with fevers only a few degrees

warmer than the air, bodies

with crawdads pulling at their

ears. The treble of our slow

move forward was all I could

hear. Behind a homing thunder

storm, near sunset, Ma cut

the engine and carried me

off the boat, into the bed

of reeds. With those canes

and stalks around me, I looked

down past their roots. I saw

Pop there, lying with his eyes

closed, waiting for the sun

to finally bleed itself dry,

the nighttime air to turn cold.

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Christian Wessels is a senior at SUNY Brockport where he studies poetry with an interest in literary translation. He is the student manager of the Brockport Writers Forum and has received grants from the Brockport Foundation to fund his research on American war literature. He would like to have dinner with all of the Argonauts besides Heracles.