Jack B. Bedell: You’ve Run Out of Time

There Is No Train but the Tracks Will Lead You There

                                                        —Honey Island



No need

                                for maps or guides to find

the swamp’s heart. Everything that touches

                                this mud leaves its own prints

to follow—eagles, nutria, black bear, gators—

                                all claws to mark your way.

Trust your own nose to tell you

                                            what smells

should not be followed. If you see gray fur

                                                        caught on a palmetto frond,

                                or count four toes on any webbed tracks,

                                                                    find the sun in the sky

                                                        right away. West of dead center


                                you’ve run out of time. Move

                    in the direction any line on your palm

leads. Do not linger near shadows

                                                                                            or look straight

                                                        into any yellow light.


almost everything where you are can outrun you,

and what can’t is drifting just below the surface

                                                                                of the water you just used

                                                                                            to cool your face.


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.