Shantyfolk Dance Floor by Heather Dobbins

the shanty preacher’s daughter
I’ll pick a shantyman
over anybody
to dance with.
Hips and stories
in fever,
sweat and meeting.

I saw him
at a shoreline café.
The fried fish, spent. All
the rolls ate up.
Set our mouths
to crave music and moon.

He asked, You want
to watch something die?

We dancing
right now, full up.
Snatch a fish from Red River
and toss it in the Mississippi
or turn its head downstream.

Our shoes and pine floor,
the music in scuffle
then reed.
He said, No fish
will bite after a moon
you can count by,
too gorged on light.

I told him I was counting
on him, didn’t need a line
just a good pole.
The saxophone’s song
was wet.

He never said my name
after we were introduced.
I wasn’t playing at Lady.
Our bodies
were pressed,
a two-fingered note.

The second night, he said,
You ever have a sick, old dog,
  then leave him sleep
on Spanish moss—
the sickening quick,
a mercy.
I said, Should’ve been
a bitch there.

Law does not govern
the river. We can go without
sight but not sound.
A true river man knows
how to lean, to move with
and against.

I closed his eyes
with my lips.
Time to call.
Time to respond.
I was current
he could hold.
Heather Dobbins’s poems and reviews have appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Big Muddy, CutBank, The Rumpus, The Southern Poetry Anthology (Tennessee), and TriQuarterly Review, among others. Her debut, In the Low Houses, is forthcoming in March from Kelsay Press.