His body was as messy as the Mississippi River .


Without warning, full cottonwoods, gnarled roots exposed

by years of torrents, simply fell face forward as the boy,

Rayford, sometimes did, arachnid in his twisted shape.

Not that he didn’t struggle in cerebral palsy strut

against the catcalls of school yard bullies soon

to be senators, congressmen, merchants and preachers.


One afternoon in high school, sitting by the radio,

he grabbed hold the chair his parents had placed for him,

slowly, awkwardly, pulled himself upwards shouting,

“No, dammit!  No!  No!”

“Are you well, Rayford?” his mother called from the kitchen.

“Yes, mother,” he forced his muddied voice to answer loud as he could,

then hobbled in string puppet parade walk, Adam’s Apple first,

head pulled back by rubber banded ligaments, to a bluff

above the river where he often stood on humid days

to silently watch the twists and turns of waters he well knew.


No more would he come home from school to cry alone.

He asked his father to order a stainless steel instrument

for buttoning his shirt, taught himself to weave a perfect tie,

laboriously formed a bow in his shoe laces, took to wearing

a suit and fedora to class, ignored finger pointing, the daily ridicule.


An only child, the only crippled boy in town,

he had become a brother of the river.

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