at five or six or so
we took a big fishing trip
to the coast near edisto.
the live oaks along
sumter highway dripped
spanish moss
and made a leaky
tunnel through the sunshine.

near charleston, i saw my first
hammerhead shark feeding in a tidal pool and
at a navy scrapyard there was a whole submarine
with its periscope bent ninety degrees.

at night we slept by the ocean
in the family car,
a 1957 brown and cream
chevy wagon that looked
like a big guernsey cow.
i curled up on the hard metal
floor in the back and
you decided to sleep
sitting up behind the steering wheel.

two friends of yours whose names
I cannot recall
scrunched and folded themselves
into itchy old army blankets
and rheumatoid positions.
they had beer on their breath
as all good fisherman do.

a silhouette on the gloomy
ocean sky, your floppy khaki hat
pulled forward over your eyes,
you said ‘good night all.’

how cool that sounded to a little kid,
grown up and masculine,
elegant and efficient,
uniquely tailored to the event.

the water in coastal carolina
smells like cooked eggs;
the sulfur meant we had to boil it
on a john deere green coleman camp stove.

i remember asking
if it was against the law to open our
premium saltines, intended for
cheese, mustard and sardines,
any other way than the way
nabisco said we should.

you assured me that it was not
by splitting the carton
down its middle
with a paring knife.

no police showed up,
and the crackers were fine.

neil lovett wilkinson © 1997
winner Kennesaw State University
poetry competition 1999

by Neil Wilkinson

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