Swamp Rat by Bruce Michael Foley

Frank Stanford (photo by Ginny Stanford)
Frank Stanford (photo by Ginny Stanford)

Swamp Rat

for Frank Stanford, R.I.P. Legendary Poet Of The Deep South

I grew weary of Hebrew psalms, my beard
doesn’t reach that long.

Burnt the morning toast, gone hard and cold, someday
maybe they’ll come, sweeten me up with honey and butter.
Be like I use to be, before the dark cloud came
following all over.

I ride bareback atop a blind mule, Moses
is what I call him.
He knows only two places to go.
The general store
for things we need, and to his resting place, the barn;
we all need water and straw.

J. D. came, holding a lantern, searching me out
in lonely places, “I read your poems written with a burnt stick,”
he said. “What are you doing down there, down in the mud?”

I told him I was looking for my heart, seeing how it got lost.

He is a good man, J.D., and a good man is hard to find.
So sings Son House, the blues man, see, I got me some
black friends. More than you’d imagine, yes, you’d want it
that way.

We have this in common.
A man don’t get the gift, without the pain comes with it.

Francis, in the end, you took to the mud
saying it wasn’t a dream, it was a flood.
But man, who whistled up those waters?
Down in Mississippi, down in delta hard time country.

You took under the dark cloud too, laying down in the dirt.

I understood you there, becoming
a voice of my own kind, like a high-flying kite;
must have been that devil shot me full of holes.
He’s been following me my whole life long.

Dark-eyed orphan, can you hear me?

You rascal. You knew to leave us right quick
slipping out that back door, all those poems left
behind in stacks, cats up there, sleeping on them.
You cared, but wanted it no more.

Three holes, for three hearts. Damn.

Dropping fast now, in a dying wind, swamp rat
was dealt a rough hand, but you had the shine.

My rusted halo needs some polish, Francis.

They say, I’m starting to scare people.
And all you do, is lay down there under that shade tree
and dusty stone, watching seasons go by, deep beneath
that Arkansas green, sweet African violets sing while you sleep.

Keeping your flame, I set fire to the quill.

Your name stuck like sludge on my old boots
tracking footprints of delta dust that smells of you,
drunk on bourbon, with pen and ink.

Now listen here, angry orphan
don’t let me go down in the mud, not yet.
I’ve come too far to join you in passing seasons;
it wasn’t a dream, it was a flood.

I know that well enough.

Your youthful death, gone much too soon.
My prayers a perpetual seance for your return.
Francis G. Stanford, no grave can hold you down.

Hours pass like slow clouds on a lazy Sunday
but you knew it would come to this, didn’t you?

Well now, J.D. is yonder with his light, he’s found me out.
Walking my way with three black cats, and a strong word
to set me straight, a good friend is known for that.

Swamp rat, when they called me a poet, I cringed.
I swear, I’m not up to this thing, simple as I am.
Laugh? Is that all you can do? Smile, down in
the mud. You had balls, I’ll give you that.

Three holes, three shots to the heart.
Don’t let me now, go down in the mud.

Fly away, and haunt about town, I guess
we’ll meet again someday, with good bourbon
out there on the levee, dancing in the sun.

I tell you this, Francis:
Bad nightmares arrive with every butchered birth.
A night hid away in a whore’s bed, is better than death.
So go rest, I’ll do the searching for us.

cape-south-2-001Bruce Michael Foley about Bruce Michael Foley. I was born across the bridge from Boston, Massachusetts, in Cambridge, as July 4th fireworks exploded over the Charles River, just a stone’s throw from Harvard University. At age two, my family moved to Somerville, Ma.,where I was raised in a rough blue-collar environment, playing many sports. In 1998 I relocated to Las Vegas, Nevada. Here, I work among special needs children and teach martial arts. Poetry began in high school, but took off in a more dedicated way in later years, along with resuming music studies, guitar. My poems are published in various anthologies; including Impressions, Prism, and the Mighty Voices Of Thunder Series, sponsored by the international poetry website, “Allpoetry.” I was a featured poet in Lyrical Somerville February 2015, a Boston based publication, as well as being an “Editor’s Front Page Pick,” for the month of March 2016 on Allpoetry. A defining moment that contributed significantly to further interest in writing was a First Place Award from the International Poetry Fellowship, for my poem, “Among Fields of Cotton.” Presently, I am happy to have the opportunity to explore various forms of poetry with Mr. Bruce Isaacson, Poet Laureate of Clark County Nevada.

4 Replies to “Swamp Rat by Bruce Michael Foley”

  1. My dear friend, I do believe that this gorgeous tribute is the best poem of yours I’ve read yet – and considering the praise left on numerous others, that says quite a lot. Your tributes, in particular, are very fine, eloquent, beautifully written in every way. I’ve read this at least 5 times and have found something new each time that touches the soul even deeper than before. Magnificent penning, Scribe.

  2. “Swamp Rat” is quite a poem and still makes me wonder why I don’t see Bruce Michael Foley at some of the other sites I visit. He should be there as should some others who appear on Outlaw Poetry, possibly the finest graphic poetry site I have ever appeared on and I’m lucky enough to have appeared on a number of them. Sites like poets need support.

    • Thank you, Donal. Please pardon me, I just caught your gracious comment now. You inspire. Most grateful for your generous support.


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