Double Mississippi Elegy
by Billy Reynolds

The storm had stopped. I lay beside my father in Mississippi.
I counted one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi.

That river’s mighty currents pulled you under.
Quicksand also pulled you under.

They never let you go. They had you forever.
Then I pictured deep space. On and on, it traveled forever.

Finally, my mind stilled trying to match his breathing.
I listened, a breath for a breath for a breath, breathing.

Like October’s maple leaves, I let go with a shake and a sigh.
A cold bottle of beer in his hand, my father also would sigh.

With him, I would watch the last bit of low sun, going on.
Then he would tell me it was time to go on in.

An extra syllable or two never hurt.
Taking your time didn’t hurt.

But sometimes he drove hard and came out wrong.
He came back at dawn, his blue eyes bloodshot, something wrong.

Still, he was a good idea, like the first rain shower
of spring. Rise and shine, he’d say, fresh out of the shower.

With the sun in our eyes, we played H-O-R-S-E.
He told another one on himself, his voice hoarse.

Now we stood again at twilight in the scarcely grown grass,
spring peepers saying their names elsewhere in the shadowed grass.

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 17, Issue 2.

Billy ReynoldsBilly Reynolds was born and raised in Huntsville, Alabama (“The Rocket City”). His awards include the Tennessee Williams scholarship in poetry from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and an Emerging Artist grant from the Greater Kalamazoo Arts Council. In 2007, he received the John Ciardi scholar in poetry from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. His poems have been published in Iron Horse Literary Review, Hunger Mountain, Sewanee Theological Review, and Third Coast, among others. Currently, he lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

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