Today's poem is by Kevin Prufer


How at the VFW bar, he rolled up his sleeves. Alligators curled around his wrists. Eighteen of them, he said. I just like them, I don't know why.

How I saw one in the yard and told my ex-wife, Don't go out there now.

How an alligator slides backward into its pond the way a ruined man slides into himself.

He fought off six of them with a pool cue. One of them cut me right here with a goddamn broken bottle.

An alligator slept on his forearm. One curled around his neck.

How their bellies flatten the grass they move through so you can follow their trails, how they sleep at the pond's edge, hundreds of them along the shore—

Should of known. They come up behind you when you ain't expecting it, hit you on the head with a beer bottle. And for what?

He was halfway drunk, his good eye focused on the row of bottles below the TV set.

I only laughed to keep him quiet.

I'd lost my job a few times recently, my wife was in Connecticut somewhere with my kid, and outside it was nighttime, cicadas lighting up the air with their racket.

You will maybe find arms or legs in its belly.

You will maybe find scratches around its eyes where she tried to fight it off.

You be good now, you hear? You drive safe. You watch your back. You hear?

Sometimes, one comes out at night and crawls along the sidewalks or stalks through the lawn. Sometimes, they're in the swimming pool or your garage, sometimes they're in your living room drinking, they're in your kitchen waving around a broken beer bottle sometimes—

At first I couldn't find my keys. Then I couldn't unlock the door.

In the dark water, the black hearts keep beating.

Copyright © 2013 Kevin Prufer All rights reserved
from the Southern Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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