South Florida Poets in Their Own Words

On April 7 at 8 pm a quintet of South Florida poets will virtually recite their poems as part of O, Miami Poetry Festival. The Zoom reading will be followed by a live Q&A that you can register for here. To get you excited we’re presenting  you works from some of the participating poets.

an argument for the existence of a higher power by Brendan Walsh

the gumbo limbo tree’s bark resembles the roasted flesh of tourists
the alligator’s patchwork pitch hide
the snapping turtle swims like a feather on the surface of a pond
the ibis’ cumulus wings inflate like plastic bags
the flesh of tourists is roasted like a gumbo limbo tree

but it could have been a cold rock hurtling through the sky.
a faint white light, barely visible. a lifeless spot in a constellation.
instead, each thing begins to resemble another.
a pillar of sundust, a dirt-dry tortoise, a pile of palm hulls,
is so terribly close to a thing we love

there’s a highway straight through the Everglades;
flatswamp, an asphalt scalpel where roadkill raccoons
bloom pink, the flies like watermelon seeds

Snapper Creek Sonnet by Maureen Seaton

Now I’m almost killed (again) on the Snapper
Creek Expressway, my shadow left behind on
blacktop like a map of this precarious sinking
city. So I invent an odd task for myself—
ephemera, I decide, harmless but illegal, that
tissue in felon wind, a blip beneath radar—
and I enjamb the law in small ways, felonious
poems sailing from the sealed lips of mermaid
sculptures, the tentacles of banyans, stuffed
into bottles I toss into Snapper Creek (the
creek, not the suicidal highway), begging fish,
fowl, and humankind: O, Miami, save us.


Why weren’t we friends in school?

We weren’t friends because I knew
you hung out in the American parking lot
unlike my boyfriend who parked his Stingray
in the Cuban one on the other side of school. Of course
I hung out there. Not that you would understand
why being his girl meant I could not
sit in your car at lunch and listen 70
your Def Leppard, your Motley Crue,
leave him to fend for himself.

We weren’t friends because he courted me
old school, couched beside my father
every Sunday while I served apprentice
to my mother, her eyes onion stung,
arms spattered with marrow and lard,
who played at loving her place at the stove.
Rules I had not learned how to break, yet.

We weren’t friends because I envied
the way you weren’t allowed to settle,
how you were allowed to date
assorted breeds of boys who strutted
across the lawn to ring your bell. Your dad
waved his blessing out the door and didn’t worry
because he taught you to discern, to choose
among them, taught you to drive
yourself, headlights set on more
than the slam of the same car door,
even if it was a Corvette.

How to Not Forget by Gregg Shapiro

Roll up the grey rugs with the black rubber backing
put down on the slick bamboo floors in the main
bedroom and office to prevent her from sliding

as her back legs began to fail. Return the six unopened
cans of prescription food to the pet store, not bothering
to stop crying as you hand the clerk the receipt and she

processes your credit card refund as she repeats, “I’m
sorry, I’m so sorry”. Gather the orange, blue and white
plastic bottles of pills from the vet, the pharmacy

at Publix, over-the-counter at Walgreens, rattling
the contents like giant sand grains in clogged hourglasses.
Do not flush them down the toilet or toss them

in the trash. Put them in a drawer until you are able
to go online and research proper methods of disposal.
Wash and dry her white ceramic water bowl and silver

metal slow-feed bowl. Put them in a cabinet, on a shelf
where you will see them only if you know enough
to look at where they are. Collect the grooming tools;

the Furminator, the flea comb, shampoo, toothbrush
and liver-flavored toothpaste. Store them in a giftbox
on the closet floor, under the sweaters you never wear

in Fort Lauderdale. Take her long black nylon leash
from the hook by the door to the backyard, clicking
the clasp to the rhythm of your sighs. The leash you will

donate to the local animal shelter, careful not to look in
the cages where homeless dogs, waiting to be adopted
by loving humans will surely spot the vulnerability

in your eyes. You’re not sure why, but you take her toys –
the bright green tennis ball, the Hurl-a-Squirrel, the red
rubber Kong frisbee, the chew toy made from black and

red firehose material and the green mallard that squeaks
when you squeeze it, directly to the garbage. Maybe you don’t
think there is another dog in the world who could possibly

enjoy them as much as she did. This is what you keep:
the hundreds of photos taken over the course of almost
14 years, stored on flash drives, CDs and your computer.

The martingale collar with the yin and yang pattern and
the bone-shaped dog tag with your name and home address
engraved on one side and “Hi, My Name is k.d.” on the other.


I crossed the wooden steps to the hot sand and ran
into the rip current, each toss and tumble, the opposite
of the massages you used to give. The fish and rocks, the sudden cold spots,
the seaweed slaps, a mouthful of salt. I flung myself
into the plunging breakers, their fierceness and froth, the terrible
twinkle of sun. Batter my heart, backwash and trough. Fling me to the ocean floor.
The surfers were out for kicks. The lifeguard blew a whistle—
shark alert. I fought the plunges and swells, kicking you again
though you had left me for good. I stewed, angry in this angry womb.
A board flew over my head. All went black,
and then I was reborn, Deborah Kerr ashore without her Burt Lancaster.
Embarrassment. Melodrama. Mouth-to-mouth with a stranger.
I crossed the hot sand and the wooden steps and wrapped
myself in a towel, having taken the beating, having sought it. Thank you, sea,
for spitting me back, delivering me.

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David Rolland

David Rolland edits the Jitney blog. He is the author of the novels Yo-Yo & The End of the Century.