Photograph by Diana Young.
You go down to the pier with a croaker sack full of chicken
necks where a man disguised as a pile of gin- and sea-salt
stinking rags asks “Is they rancid?” He’s an old man. You
can tell by the tufts of white ear-hair wiggling in the
breeze off the Cat Island Sound. You can also tell by
his thin, dry liver-y lips. You can tell when he says
“You do what you want widdat mop-head you call
a crabnet, kid, but them necks? They ain’t rancid,
yer wastin yer time.” He blinks his rheumy
blue eyes at you, but not in a ass-grabby kinda way.
You can tell he’s no perv. No, his problem is visionary.
He can barely see through cataract membranes
translucent as a softshell crab, dreamy-like.
He simply can’t see the truth, that you’re no stupid kid
standing barefooted holding a tattered crab net in one hand
and a burlap bag of way gone chicken necks in the other.
You may look stupid, but you know you ain’t
and that’s what matters in the game of life.
So you stun him by—smart as any kid on the make—saying;
“Fuckin-A, I’ll do what I please.”
Then you dump the necks onto the pier’s planking,
hoping the gnarly gristle and scraps of flesh
are rancid enough to satisfy the old fart. Mites
swarm. A seagull strafes, eyeing those necks, his
breakfast if he’s quick and lucky.
The gluey-mouthed man says nothing.
He is silent as an unwanted guest.
He shakes his head. White hair billows
on the breeze from Cat Island, whips
fantastical whorls of white mane
and white ear-hair
mad ear mustaches.
Must have taken years of grooming
to get ’em like he wants ’em.
You wonder whether you care what he thinks.
Carefully with crusty fingers Whitey fingers open
your tangled crab net and says: “Rotten net.”
He grumbles as he begins picking at net threads.
Parchment hand and finger skin patchy in spots
seared by melanomas, scaly knuckles, claw nails.
He rips. He ties. He reties. He hums.
It is no tune you recognize.
Being just a smart-mouthed kid,
how could you know what songs
he wasted his youth on?
Now his hum is more of a purr.
Some cat this old fart.
You don’t want it to end.