The Post and Courier Prize
Debra A. Daniel
My Father Spendsthe Night Lostin the Santee Swamp
Imagine the sounds, the scuttlings, the shudderings
of nocturnal animals foraging among the cypress knees.
Imagine the flat, black dark disappearing
everything solid into an uncertain quicksand shiver.
Think of a small unpainted boat, a sputtering engine,
a tall, lean man alone with owl and alligator,
regret and repercussion nagging a damp pull
along his pants leg. He could not find his way
and slept there in the tiny boat, afraid to step one
foot onto the unsteady bank.
He used to tell me stories of the Swamp Fox,
repeat tales of crafty sojourns into the marshy
secret backwaters, scoff at how the British soldiers,
outmaneuvered, found themselves without landmark,
without anything they knew to be sure.
The Swamp Fox laughed as he gave those Redcoats
the run-around, my father said, made them the fools
time and time again. My father knew how it was
to be lost in that vivid dark, how it felt waiting, waiting
for daylight to find the way back to someone
who would sit at his knees and listen for what
would become the legend of his own returning.