The Intracoastal Waterway
by Steve Lambert

A rare brackish brew of bull shark,
bottlenose dolphin, skate and outboard-scarred manatee:
the Mississippi to my Huck Finn
most of my childhood. Merritt Island,
a shaggy shrimp-shaped scab of prime real estate,
festered in the center, a green dragon guarding
its southern tip, Banana River on one side,
Indian on the other. (But the dragon’s gone now.
Don’t go looking for it.) They’re not two rivers,
precisely, but one murky lagoon—a place for false
distinctions, of blurred lines, obfuscation.
There’s a story, probably apocryphal,
of a seventeenth century Ais chief wearing
a kilt as he strutted like a rooster along the east bank
on the Indian River side. Some years earlier,
in that same area, an errant Scotsman
had gone missing. Just to the east,
in the twentieth century, on a barrier island
named for falling satellites, I sleep and dream
up adventurous nonsense, and on weekends,
tromp and otter the lagoons and their islets,
eschewing the blond obviousness of the beach,
which is closer to home, but farther from me,
for the strange, green insanities of the intracoastal,
where easy peril can be had, where once,
on Spider Island, on the Banana River side,
I found oddly arranged bleach-white bird bones,
the remnants (in my mind) of some dark satanic ceremony,
and felt the full eeriness of the place
reverberate inside me and ran blindly to the bank,
to my inflatable yellow raft and rowed
until my body stopped. Somewhere, I believe,
there’s a stark, snowy opposite to all that leafy,
humid oddness. Somewhere in the Scottish Highlands
a sloe-eyed olive-skinned boy feels out of place.

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