Pine Trees and Alligators
Pickup trucks with rifles hanging in the cab,
lumber mills processing wood from piney
forests, planted acres to pay the tab
on land between the Pigeon and Tombigbee,
longleaf pines, red-cockaded woodpeckers,
alligators, bald cypress, Spanish moss
decorate mosquito lands whose chiggers
sneak attack deer hunters hiking across
wooded stands. From Cironelle to Doster
rural Alabama harbors folk who balk
at paying much heed to city slickers
driving all the way from Birmingham to talk
about making piney woods profitable
then motoring back to diamonds and sable.
Hunting Piney Woods
Guy has permission to hunt these woods
two miles from any house—
he turns where a road cuts in
gashing between young pines
growing together as thick as pubic hairs.
He needs his four-wheel drive
to crawl down this track.
Signs of civilization abound
in this seemingly secluded place.
Cars slow down on the highway
throw out creatures considered refuse—
scrawny cats, distempered dogs
wander along the piney track.
Sacks of trash bother whiskey bottles
lying beside the ruts. More cast offs
decorate spaces car tracks trace
into clear places allowing campsites.
Beyond one of these Guy sees oaks
and other mast trees, moves in and loads
his rifle to dodge through beer cans,
gum wrappers, Kleenex, snakeskin
stockings shed onto stacks of garbage—
prophylactics scattered here and there.
Guy tries to ignore this human carelessness
as he moves into the oaks and hickories
and stalks a barking squirrel
trying to imagine he’s in the wild…
“Look there! Acrobats in air!”
“Look at that catch!”
“Let’s make one fetch from the hand;
hold up bread above your head.”
“Ouch! No fair! He nipped my hand.”
“Use just two fingers.
Hold up a crust.”
Up goes the bread,
as high as the throwers can toss
and the wind can blow—
young kids unaware of the need to throw
it out, away from their heads,
at times bring the birds too close
and groan to receive a fowl gift.
A sunny day and a shining beach
and laughing gulls to feed
are little kids’ delight
whether the child be six or seventy
if there’s bread to be had at a decent rate
and you have enough when the gulls
have taken the bait.
Grandkids grow blasé—
feeding gulls no longer makes their day
exciting—the teens who used to laugh
and toss bread say they have other things to do.
They will feel joy again at feeding gulls
when they have kids and grandkids
and they are young again.
A native Virginian, Richard Peake became a Texas resident after retiring from the University of Virginia’s College at Wise. He published early poems in Impetus alongside John Ciardi and in The Georgia Review. Collections of his poetry are Wings Across… and Poems for Terence published by Vision Press, which also included poems of his in A Gathering at the Forks. He published Birds and Other Beasts in 2007. During 2008 and 2009 he won awards from Gulf Coast Poets and The Poetry Society of Texas and published in Sol Magazine and Shine Journal (one nominated for the Pushcart Prize). In 2010 he published in Avocet, Asinine Poetry, Boundless 2010, Raven Images, Skive, The Road Not Taken and elsewhere. A life-long naturalist, a father and grandfather, he teaches birds, Shakespeare, and writing in Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.