by Michele Poulos

At midnight we canoe the bayou
in a yellow shell, a daffodil

curling for dark. I’m only now
beginning to know this man,

his beard and nails’ blunt
manicure. He tells me the red

eyes of alligators sweep cypress
knees bald, how the animal

leaps vertically if provoked.
He asks for his harmonica. I lean

over, steady myself on the frame.
His notes lap the hyacinth,

burrow in the brown mud.
He remembers the animals come

for marshmallows. Why didn’t I bring
a bag? Why am I always forgetting?

Months ago, he told a waitress
to lower her voice—

its timbre hurt his ears. She laughed,
thought it a joke. Now we knock

our wooden oars. Up front,
under tupelo, he points

to scarlet breaks in the shadows,
rips a mallow flower

from a bush, crepes it
across the water’s copper finish.