The Gulf Coast

The Gulf Coast

Lumbering tourists swell to flight
with pelicans above the Odyssey Motel.
Siren wagons gather passengers from
the ships whitening Tampa Bay.

Here cruise directors offer syntax
for salvation, here are fountains
for our wrinkled childhoods, and here
we shower in gold dust before we sleep.

And bask in cobalt blue among the mangroves.
But this I only dream, lying wet with fear,
to hear the muffled prehistoric roar of TV
beasts, Godzilla and the priests…

Remember how we fought waist-deep
at Lauderdale, how we swung at Sebring,
where bones and dried leather hang gibbeted.
Nobody’s at home at Nixon’s place.

The airconditioning turns off automatically.
I tear away my skin to eat an orange and see
above the sky footprints huge as bigtop clowns
run by tinsel-hatted mice. I awake without

egrets. So what if my white innocence’s flown,
and what I didn’t know has left me nothing
else to think or do — except to cruise the Ever-
glades, flashlight ready for the perfect

crystal fake, sold by Seminoles. No matter
that my compass rose has wilted. I will find
the lost keys to my budget car sunk in the muck
of hamburgers and chicken fried along

the reeking causeways, arching the golden flood.
Where frightened tourists, clutching their Konicas
and bonded rum against the end, run in panic
as the Great Wallenda loses balance in the fog

and falls. And my Eldorado’s almost out of gas.
But the airport says they can see to fly.
So just in time by early light I catch at twice
the cost the last plane to the Coast.

My sample case is safely stuffed with baby gators.

-T.C.Buell

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