Star-wracked and before dawn, I toss my baits
of smelt and neck bone into the brack for crabs.
I don’t know who molded their claws into form,
but they’ll ignore the string’s slow pull to shore
and often won’t unpinch even as the reeling
lifts them wholly out the water. And so long ago,
they became our first totems of home
and of success. The self smug inside a shell,
of course, but also their knack to hold
nothing as useless. They make dirt a meal
and the suck and surge of brine on and off the beach
as a sign the moon’s looking after them.
Their best teaching, though, comes when a limb
just lets go of its body and shows itself
for what it is—a trickster’s ploy. Then, bodies hit
the sand and legs start their ancient dance
to remind us of any tradesman’s greatest act—
crafting from brokenness and making backwardness an art.
Crossing the Mississippi Bridge
For luck, I guess, I tell my girls to hold
their breath as we cross the bridge
and, in part, because my mother
liked to play this old game. What better way,
she thought, to record the trip across
this cantilever of rebar and poured cement.
And because my father was proud some men,
even if not him, watched the sun’s high-wire
tumbling as it sunk into the anchorage,
men who slept with dreams of tools fumbling
from their ladders and of the crane still whirring
and unsatisfied, and woke, and went to work.
And because my brother and sister had learned
by heart the story of the fabled bride
sealed tight inside a cornerstone
by a husband who walled her up as sacrifice
so bricks wouldn’t brittle in the sun
and the town’s temple wouldn’t fall down.
And because it doesn’t last. For a time, the lungs stay set
then buckle like a failed stone crib. How easy
even a perfect arch—the curve of day,
a rib’s bright bend, a sacred entranceway—just gives.
Not because of the grave, but against its quiet,
we hold our breath, and cross the bridge.
Keagan LeJeune was a finalist for the 2016 Tennessee Williams Festival Poetry Prize. His work has appeared in New South, Louisiana Literature, and elsewhere. contact