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The Black Boat

Jan Kinney


A smirking, wicked crescent moon traversed a blackened sky.
Some Cajun music floated from an open bar nearby.
The air was damp and weary from the heat of summer’s day
And crickets crooned to voodoo moon while Cypress demons swayed.
I’d taken a slight detour from my trip ‘cross highway ten,
The orange direction signs had led me down this way and then
Abruptly disappeared and now I feared--what should I do?
Unfolded map upon my lap read “Bateau Noir Bayou.”
My cell was unreceptive. I really had no choice;
A phone I’d seek from yon’ barkeep toward a sultry voice.
I crossed a well-worn wooden porch lit up by blue bug-zapper.
I had high hopes these local folks could thwart my near disaster.
Though it was long past midnight, the place was packed with men.
All eyes were fixed upon a vixen, chanting soft to them.
The siren’s gown of sheer azure clung close to curving shape.
Her golden tresses twisted up with curls upon her nape
Framed angel face, embodied grace, she spun a fantasy
And I, a fly--mere passerby--transformed to devotee.
I waded through the transfixed souls and inched up to the bar.
The dowager who ran the place was counting the tip jar.
The tens and twenties fingered by the aged pythoness
Slipped quick into a velvet bag and quicker under dress.
My heart leapt up into my throat when first she caught my eyes.
Her gypsy gaze, the hag emblazed, my spirit vaporized.
What kind of hellish creature this, I thought, with eyes so cruel?
“’Tis our sweet Morgan Fay’s Grand Mere” came from a near barstool.
“I see,” said he “you are like me, I just came for a beer.
And now I cannot go away without returning here.
The men who sit around us, friend, spend every night and day
Dreaming of the day they’ll spend the night with Morgan Fay.
For every evening, just before the light of dawn appears,
When old Grand Mere is finished counting cash and serving beers,
She chooses from amongst the crowd, a guard, to be gallant--
An escort to return the women back home through the swamp.
And rumors say, by light of day, when Grandma is disarmed
She slumbers deep and cannot keep an eye on Morgan’s charms.
The passion sweet, once love’s complete, fulfills like none before
And all who reach this love replete are spoiled forevermore.”
The blood rushed to my head as I imagined the encounter.
Damn the phone--se moi, alone--I would not leave without her!
My friend explained, to be ordained to taste this sweetest honey,
Pay double for each drink you get ‘cause Grandma loves her money.
And when the tired night is changing soft from black to blue,
Grandma-ma might just present the last call’s drink to you.
The details now are foggy, though bits come back to me;
For every glass that I put down, I paid not twice but three.
And though a stranger to that place, Grand Mere at last bestowed
Her last call’s drink to me and I climbed into their black boat.
Miss Morgan Fay was silent now, so beautiful and pale.
I could not take my eyes from her as Grand Mere told her tale.
She spoke of Morgan’s mother with a voice like gilded lark
And how she died one night, alone and helpless in the dark.
‘Tis true, the story told was sad about this orphaned daughter,
But I was inattentive as I paddled ‘cross the water.
Ten minutes passed, no more I think, from when we left the tavern.
We floated to a shack on stilts within a misty cavern
Of hanging moss and gnarled vines near’ choking out the light
From that wicked, smirking crescent moon descending out of sight.
I helped the old one to her bed and feigned polite adieu,
By then I felt a numbness, strange, encompassed belt to shoe.
Determined not to let my drunken stupor change my fate
I stumbled toward, what I know now, was simply lovely bait.
The last thing I recall was being dragged out on my back
After fighting off some sort of surrealistic knife attack.
So doctor, please, describe for me; I haven’t got a clue
How I was found, they said, half-drowned on Bateau Noir Bayou.
I know I heard a caterwaul that echoed through the fog,
“So now you’re ‘gator breakfast, sans the sausage, dirty dog!”
You say the Parrish finest found my rental and a note
It said--He’s gone, don’t look for him--and that was all they wrote?
These tubes, machines and bandages--I feel intoxicated,
I thought I heard a nurse, absurd, say I’m emasculated?
No, doctor, you don’t understand. I’m simply passing through,
I took the slightest detour down by Bateau Noir Bayou.