Steve Roberts – Four Poems

Grand Isle, Louisiana
after Ferdinand de Soto, died 1542

Peering from the state park’s girdered observation tower
Scouting the Mississippi’s marsh-gilled mouth,
I have lost track of what time it is.
The water spout dissipated,
Lightning streaks toward a black sky
Then back down to the surface, still-cycling.
Twin shark fins knife close to the shore where bare-
Foot I wander. The man cleaning fish on the pier swears,
I have lived around here my whole life and never
Seen a shark, but my boat doesn’t go where
They do. The map screwed inside
Its plastic cover reveals vast stands of pine,
Orange & oak felled for use as buildings, vessels & fuel.
Across the verdant, lush peninsula, one thousand pelicans roost.
Yellow oleander in bloom disguises a dilapidated pier’s
Bleached planks & leaning pylons. In the spirit
Of Ferdinand, who the story goes, died
Of fever in what we now describe
As Arkansas, I duck toward
What looked like a path through solid-as-a-fortress
Brush. His body sunk somewhere upriver,
Scrolling down our tangled, human-gilled history.


Like Abyss, Like Blossom

Alton knows a mountain
Slinks behind his mother’s cabin,
Though sometimes he forgets
Because of all the trees.
Never one taken to wander,
He tends to the pigs and chickens.
Fall, the sun rolls fast across the sky.
Cold, black as the cloud it blinks.
Alton’s radar-like ears tracking
The barn owl’s maple-rustled flap,
His taxidermies precise as each day’s
Opening and closing eyelids,
He wakes his soothsayer mother.
Sun move, mountain move.



Like some ancient tribesman on a hunt,
The famished, time-traveling bum
Drives the fluid-spewing, floorboard-rusted-out
Van to divine the tree branch stout
Enough to winch its engine up, his female
Companion back tending their sewer grate flame
As the mountaintop’s giant omniscient
Electric star flashes blood-red on-&-off again to signal
Yet another highway death, smoke
Snaking along the mountainside like a road
Cut through, or that flock of industrial park doves
He will fry up soon, rare like he loves.


Memorial Day
(evening dwells inside us)

Thin-as-a-rail, Stars-&-Stripes-
Halter-topped, crater-eyed
Mother rescues her sobbing toddler
From the shirt-off, tattooed-bowling-ball-bellied father.
Two wee-bikinied females, their breasts
Large as mountains, bare me the harder message:
There’s more to us than just the flimsy
Mirror of fresh experience.
Last, black-crusted hot dog spatulaed
Off my coals-turned-to-ashes
Weber Jr. grill and sliced into thirds, I share
It with the starved, nearly-naked pair.
After we make a plastic-cupped PBR salute
To love and death, I head home where buried soldiers
Rot with sacrifice like roses root
Dark red in black-turned earth.