Gator

1.
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
whole.

2.
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.

3.
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

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