Leaping & Trawling
by Dixon Hearne
He leapt to freedom, some say,
was drowned and swept away
by the waters of the Mississippi
that cool October day when no one was watching,
save a young boy walking the levee.
The bridge moved with usual traffic,
drivers glued to radios and steering wheels,
when he stepped over the guard rail
and into nebulous space—
no one to ponder why he did it,
not even the boy who completed
his walk to town and reported it
to the owner of an ice cream shop.
Like the day Leda Robbins
made her own swan dive
from this very bridge.
And the time before,
when an old man with one arm
flapped his single wing
too weak to save him
from the brooding deep.
What beckons the sad,
the hopeless, the desperate
to this particular place,
these muddy waters
that wash away nothing?
Hoarfrost clings to the balding cypress,
whose gray beards glisten in the dawning
along the bayous and river’s trace.
Boats split the stillness with a
grunt and chug of fussy motors.
Sleepy trawlers spit and mutter,
drawing lines from the wintering channel,
lugging near-frozen catch into the hold.
Line by line, they make their way
down the serpentine course
of the ancient Ouachita—
from Sterlington to Endom Bridge,
where markets scale and clean
and trim the bounty for display
in open troughs along the storefront,
where buyers sip chicory
and haggle over prices
‘til the urns are empty
and morning is spent.
Dixon Hearne lives and writes in the American South. He is the author of seven books of poetry and fiction. His work has been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, as well as the PEN/Hemingway and PEN/Faulkner awards. His latest book is Plainspeak: New and Selected Poems. Other poetry appears in Poetry South, Tulane Review, Arkansas Review, Chiron Review, Big Muddy, New Plains Review, Weber: The Contemporary West, The Southern Poetry Anthology, IV: Louisiana, Down to the Dark River anthology (LA-Lit Press) and elsewhere. He is currently working on new poetry and short story collections. Read his past work in Deep South here.