Past the hydraulic shrimp boat wings folded upright above the water, beyond the bits of land, nostalgic islands, above the stagnant rot of crab pot and old rope, high above the bayou’s winding channels and far beyond it’s planked porches covered in steel cooking pots, the sky reddens and bleeds from orange and blue. Fire and water mixing in the cosmos. Charging down the bayou in streaks that stain.
If placed correctly, perhaps the shallow curve of the moon could hold all the stars that follow it’s nightly appearance. Heaped and tangled together in a net of light, pushing and shoving like a billion runts against the curve of breast. Bigger stars roll in on mechanical limbs, clicking and spurting gas, bolted and bending, jointed with brass rivets that glow fire red with pressurized heat. They open dark holes by pressing their steel thumbs hard into the brightness, and as the night trips over the horizon the giants take their place standing on the moons soft edge.
The water is so clear and dark that it reflects lost light thrown down by loose stars and the wooden keel of the dingy cuts through ghostly cosmos. If you look closely you can see whole constellations gyrating in place, flashing their misunderstood patterns on the surface of the bayou.
It is here that they tell stories of concrete boxes. Grand treasures guarded by the Devil that surface in the swamps for a moment before disappearing down into the mud like shrimp burying the length of their whiskers. The people here tell stories of endless holes that plunge into the swamp where one could fall and never climb out. Chests of riches unlocked by sinister deals with the dark. Old age can’t even pull these stories away. They seem only to ripen as haunted memories are built upon and refashioned to fit a stories structure. Grown men and woman push their superstitions down through the generations keeping the bayou alive with a quiet magic.
If I let the canvass folding chair hold me, trusting its foreign weave with the weight of my body, wishing that the rust did not crawl up the sheered metal legs, praying for threadbare cotton beneath. If I lend the plywood dock my vote of confidence, laud it’s flex and bow, celebrate it’s hasty construction and it’s keen command of balance. If let my trust flow from the chair and dock, further down the Bayou, carried by saline breeze, across Gravel Goat Road, between the legs of laying hens before resting on a cypress porch. Perhaps if it could lift the window shade a few inches and inspect the flood lines circling walls, blotch and mold climbing six feet above the wooden floor molding. Maybe my belief in the rigor and tradition of the people that live here in Dulac, Louisiana would molt and harden.
Atop the hexagonal weave of a crab pot, a great blue heron spreads its wings over water. “Dems good eating” Kirk says pointing at the bird. I wonder how its tubular frame would fit over a fire, whether Kirk would eat the wings or long legs. The bird, now protected by numerous laws, treaties and arbitrations, fans its wings in safety. Moisture in the air provides a weightless bounce to both flora and fauna. Blurring the edges of action.
We used to eat them all the time.
They taste good.
Ya they is good eatin.
The birds proportions seemed far too acute to hold any real meat, but Kirk insisted that a heron would feed a few people.
We used to live off the land when we grew up. Those Red winged blackbirds is good eatin too. Catch em in a box. Fry up the breast meat.
We sat on Kirk’s front porch.
“The truck could hold another three or four, pressed against the wheel wells, crouching to get out of the wind. It was better this way with a head full of air feeling the mosquitos and gnats bounce from your cheeks. During the summer we would pile in the truck, all of us at once and hit the yellow line, forty miles an hour to cool down at night. Looking out across the road, a sea of sugar cane on either side floating away from us.”
“This one time when we was kids, we were all fucked up, drunk and high. My buddy says to me, man this is where that treasure is.”
‘what treasure.’ I asked. Thing about that treasure is you gotta show up with three people and stand around this place in the ground. The youngest has to fight the devil. And the others have to stand their and watch. If the youngest stands his ground and beats the devil, you get the treasure.”
What could be meant by his shallow voice. He could talk for hours a group sitting around his legs, watching his hands move back and forth across the negative space in the room. Whether or not he knew it, he was remembered. His stories had the unique property of presenting themselves over and over again in life’s daily movements.