Bards & Brews Reader

CASEY THAYER
Chucky Be Drowning

 

Reconstruct the reef: the staghorn,
bottlebrush, cat’s paw, cluster coral—
and the underwater glow the moon
coaxed from the latticework undergirding.
For a single honors college credit,
we flippered through it, one-off cameras
dangling from our wrists, our breath
constricted to the nickel-width lifelines
of our snorkels. In my wandering,
I didn’t give a thought to how easy
some smart ass could plug the tube.
I ignored the ease at which my air
could be cut off but not
Chucky, who scooted off the transom
of the trawler and couldn’t kick enough
to keep his head above the waves.
Chucky be drowning, we ribbed him
after they back-slapped the water
from his lungs, the coughing stopped.
It became our refrain: Chucky be drowning
when he blanked one minute

deep into his demonstration speech,
Chucky be drowning when his safety
school said no, when he surfaced lit
and barely present for the last exam.
An unplanned kid later, post-shift
and three beers gone on his balcony,
he offered meth and needed me
to take it, a communion, initiation
into his religion of letting go.
A quick no, and the gulf
widened, he floated farther away
and bobbed under, past the reef,
the sibilant Atlantic flux, the foam.
A silence unfolded, a shoal
of bluehead wrasse scouting the bubbles
that marked my breathing, and the ones
beading from Chucky’s mouth
that showed the rescuer where to dive.

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