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Jack Bedell


Line for a Country Song, Best If Used Before


When there’s a ferry ride
over to Algiers for breakfast,
                    flat water and high sun,

I'm never quite sure
                    how to approach

How's it going?

There's always “Pretty good,”

but sometimes I
                    have to think of my oldest

son, taller than I am and already 
driving, his brother much better 
at getting away with things 
                    than I ever was,
my daughter, whose every particle
                    keeps my mother’s memory
                                    And then my wife’s 
smile when the warm coffee mug
                    touches her hands each day.

It makes me think 
                    of stories my father
only told once:

Like in 1933, at six, how he had to
            walk downtown one day with a voucher
stuffed in his pocket that would get his family
                    one cooked goose, or two live. 

He couldn’t carry both birds
            back home, so took off his belt,
looped it around the largest goose’s neck,
                   tucked the other under his arm,

and headed off. He said he sang
                   church songs to keep the small
goose from squirming loose, let
                   the big goose walk them home.

He said the next two weeks were 
                                    pretty good

        getting something other than
rice every meal. And it was

really special his folks let him
                   name those geese.

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Line for a Country Song, Best If Used Before

Belly up to a bar in the city,
        an old stranger gave me
the best advice I could ever get—

Son, when your mind goes
        to thinking about changing,
don’t change. Quit.

And I can remember looking down
        into my glass of Bushmills
wishing I was anyplace else,

maybe even digging around
        in the fridge to make you
something for breakfast.

But I knew then, and there,
        once that milk turns
it never does turn back.

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Jack B. Bedell is Professor of English and Coordinator of Creative Writing at Southeastern Louisiana University where he also edits Louisiana Literature and directs the Louisiana Literature Press. His latest collections are Elliptic (Yellow Flag Press, 2016), Revenant (Blue Horse Press, 2016), and No Brother, This Storm (Mercer University Press, fall 2018). He has recently been appointed by Governor John Bel Edwards to serve as Louisiana Poet Laureate 2017-2019. 

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