In 1780, William Bartram
saw his nostrils bellowing smoke
and heard his roaring in the night
as shaking the foundations
of the earth.

Today, the gator parks nose first
with hundreds of his brothers
along the shoreline
of Lake Jesup
and waits.

He is a lunger,
a rough-hewn bushwacker
with interlocking vice snappers,
a twisting Jack and Jill ripper
swallowing everything that fits

Parked by our Florida
neighborhood pond,
a battered blue
Ford pickup.

The driver is thin,
arms baked brown;
a cigarette dangles
from his lips.

Before he slams the door,
he lobs a wadded
McDonalds paper bag
into the bed of the truck
where it caroms with a smack
off the gator’s head,
the long snout lashed
in frayed, silver
duct tape.

One eye blinks slowly;
his tail is curled and stilled.
The gator is battle beaten
and seething,
his fate made certain
somewhere in the distant past
when Bartram drew his
smoke-filled portrait
and sold his story
to the European world
waiting to buy it
across the seas.

Don Cadwallader

Back to Wherever

“Are we going back
to wherever?” she asks
as I unlock the wheels
of her chair
to leave the
hospital courtyard.

The clouds above
turn purple-pink
in the late
evening sky.

Two gray doves
fly home
from the scrub
by the bubbling waters
beneath the banana tree.

A dozen crows
cut quick shadows
across the tops
of the tall sycamores
to roost in the east
near Santa Anita.

The hummingbirds
are silent now
as they bed high
in the dark creases
of maples
in the lowering dusk.

But she is lost.

Her 90-year-old legs
are crippled,
her eyes see only
the distant skies
beyond the hills
of Altadena,
while back in her room
the nurses wait
to raise her up
in the hydraulic lift,
to swing her
onto the sanitary pad,
to watch her
swallow the pill
that takes her
home and back
from there
to wherever.

Don Cadwallader

Published in
Front Porch Review (July 2017)