It’s the captured hiss of a simple word blown past the rim 

of the mouth of the cloud I am, a barnacle gosling of spit 

slapdash off the chin. It’s perfect, elemental. It’s itsy-bitsy 

water and air, holding the last vibrations of a dying man. 

We live a chemical or two away from cadaverous. The 

body says, this story’s got him by the throat. Send him a

spoonful of our collected best, enough to wet his whistle, 

enough for one soft-bubble, a chicken’s feather adrift 

amongst a ruckus of fox. Think, too, of the idiot passing 

us a secret, how he holds the smoke deep inside the book-

cases of his lungs, how he features a work-shirt from my 

dead grandfather, one he’d wear when he passed the salt, 

only now it’s a bong. The body, like the earth, has every-

thing it needs. And if, as they say, the land of the dead 

is uncoupled from time, buck up. It means they are not 

waiting for us. We’re with them now, always have been. 

They’ve learned we are cottonwoods written by a thirsty 

wind. They know that a coastline of students stretches 

in front of me, anticipating the truth—how we are, each 

of us, fools fooling the origin of the river for as long as 

we can.


Fred Dale is a husband to his wife, Valerie, and a father to his occasionally good dog, Earl. He serves as a Senior Instructor in the Department of English at the University of North Florida. He earned an MFA from the University of Tampa, but mostly, he just grades papers. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Sugar House Review, The Summerset Review, Chiron Review, Crack the Spine, The Evansville Review, and others.