I’m out of touch, I know.
The years with children, late
in coming for me, have passed
most rapidly, like a stream downhill,
singing past the stones, happy
to be water. Now a flattening
and the stream must merge
with the wide, dirty river.
“I don’t think I will,”
as Howard Hughes once said.
And the alligator hasn’t moved
all afternoon. I’ve watched it
off and on this Saturday
as clouds have failed to hide
the sun for long. Roseate spoonbills
and cormorants have perched above it
for hours preening, being themselves.
I’m not myself, watching this majestic
form, this paragon of terror,
who smiles in the knowledge
of itself. How does it achieve
such size simply lying in the sun?
I’m out of touch with what’s been done,
with much that seems too much.
Alligators can live a hundred years,
and this one here, my friends,
could wake and devour everyone.
Quitman Marshall’s most recent book of poems, his fifth, You Were Born One Time, won the SC Poetry Archives Book Prize. A founding host of the Literary Series at Spoleto Festival USA, he won the Writers Exchange Award (Poets & Writers) in 1996. His roving manuscripts include Swampitude: Escapes with the Congaree (nonfiction), The Bloody Point (novel), and American Folklore (poems). He lived on West 15th St. in Manhattan from 1978 until 1990. Since 2001 he has lived in Beaufort, SC, with his wife and three children, and he teaches school—sometimes English, sometimes writing, sometimes French.