"Calusa Wail"

Calusa wail up and down

the great blackwater river,

their words fall to whispers

then rise again above

thickets hammocks

miles and miles to the eye

in a night thunder.



The journey from

bad to perfect

looks like a maze when

flying overhead. Its lost

direction defies a theory

on second thought. We

are all the bodies of conquests

of the conquered too losing

winning off and on share

a common ending

all the while revenge or regret

is no way to live

unless in a vacuum. Northwest

sky rains nearby.


So what of the Calusa

and what of me? I imagine

the last eighty families

sailing to Havana where they

either died or became us

and the cattle farmers

who replaced them

who’ve cleared a place like

a village or a road, buried

their dead in the same ground

fear the invader his one foot

unshod, leaving us always

unprotected. And down

these streets the wailing

lifts and settles, goes on

every night again until

the sun sheets west downriver

to Matanzas. Mound Key

was quiet this morning. The tides

are in control. Only brightness

dapples through mangrove,

our shells and bones.


L. Ward Abel, poet, composer and performer of music, teacher, retired lawyer, lives in rural Georgia, has been published hundreds of times in print and online, including The ReaderIstanbul ReviewVersalYale Angler’s JournalPudding, Indian Review and others, and is the author of one full collection and nine chapbooks, including Jonesing For Byzantium (UK Authors Press, 2006), The Heat of Blooming (Pudding House Press, 2008),  American Bruise (Parallel Press, 2012),  Little Town gods (Folded Word Press, 2016), A Jerusalem of Ponds (erbacce-Press, 2016), and  Digby Roundabout (Kelsay Books, 2017).

L.Ward Abel