Nicholas Molbert

Excerpts from stillcoast

from stillcoast

Like hungry water, the escaping tombs don’t follow the regular grids of roadmaps, grafting themselves to any old oyster-shell route through the village.

Ida plummeted Jean Lafitte. Norman Bouisse is no longer vexed by surge, Barataria being purged near bimonthly more each subsequent storm season. Bouisse pays homage to his passed loved ones according to plot of land rather than by water-weathered tombstone. He lays roses atop an Hebert one month, a Derouen another, a Melancon another. The Times says the flooding disturbs the burial sites. PBS says floods washed away caskets. Who will say that the dexterous flood plucked the locks of mausoleums, excavated lives, exhumed and mobilized coffins of Louisianians in all twenty-seven cemeteries in storm’s way. Adams, Ironton, Betrandville, etc etc etc.

Bouisse says, “It’s a disaster to see it the way it is.” Seeing it is the disaster. Seeing is the disaster. Around here, the disaster sees all. All see around here. The way becomes the disaster seen. A tomb found beached in your front yard is a disaster you more-than-see. Bouisse, 74, hopes it’s his brother’s tomb.

He tells PBS this is a disaster he’s seen. He’s seen two, three coffins on top of each other. He’s rode a deer freezer downriver from Jean Lafitte to Barataria to Lafitte, past the cuts of Bayou Perot, along the mucked banks of Bayou Rigolettes, past the straight manmade banks of the lake they call The Pen. He saw a family eating dinner off one of those good Yeti ice chests on the roof of their carport.

Look and see nothing but water; bliss for those who think Enough is enough, I claim this. Who bluff it as betterment. Another way to see it: the fishing-line-thin horizon, those lips pressed into a taut, frustrated line. No: the horizon is a rod which begs for its job; begs to be bent into question mark, the fallacious arc of misunderstanding from seeing expanse to hearing it whisper Please, yes, feel free to plunder, to plunge underneath where you cannot see, to fracture, to frack. Land done-up, made beautiful, usable for livelihood’s sake.

Nowhere will you find At the expense of in this lexicon.

Industriousness erases livelihoods for its own sake. See beauty disguised, fractured, askew. Underneath what you cannot see, the land does not whisper Yes, please plunge, please plunder this expanse; feel free. It is no question mark, no plundered orchid, frowned and begging for a job. No bent line—the horizon is not a rod. No pressed, taut lips frustrated into a fishing-line-thin horizon of betterment. Blame those who think Enough of just water water water. Only way to say it: look and see water and more and more.

Dense evenings leave skeletons of geckos scattered on the patio. Crouch to a new perspective. Press cheek to stained concrete. Become infused with the morning’s heat wave. Father calls it apocalypse.

Fall, we have so little of it. It burns. We arrange everything around ourselves. We craft elaborate bouquets of carbon. A neighbor idles to the mailbox in a lifted golf cart. He gathers the envelopes with his name. He tosses everything addressed to Current Resident, tosses it to landfill.

Men here make livings gospeled by the straight and narrow and efficient path from A to B. Make livings fracking and fucking up what’s underfoot.

Tomorrow morning, geckos will come out of the woodwork again like junk mail. Out of the neglected cracks. They will die, shriveled at the edge of the patio. They will join others picked clean by gulls. They will blend to brick, knowing not which yard to dip into for sugar water. But what lengths they will go to find it.

Our remembering will be tinged with praise and our forgetting deliberate. We will waste mornings in shit-talk and hear the crackle of heat moving through yellow grass. Like breeze through bones. It won’t be music.

The debate is whether they danced through the storm. Or did they not. Did they gala through the gusts. Such is the debate.

Did we not note between chandelier & rainpatter a symbiosis?

Knot up their homes for the storming; By candlelight we talked through gusted nights. The quest to know whether they tapped there; Did we not sense after windhowl what tapped where?

Their heels questioned not whether they danced By gustclap, did we waste our penultimate night?

But music to what? Music toward what? Did we not mention the music? Or what we thought was?

Now do you know where you are?

Is it too late now for the songs to come? The sprawl and web of slurred slang reverberates through dusk. It hums.

What I answered—what I sang the moment after the death to the dusk rang—rings still. Clear as moon-bit fog. A sheer slip into the possibility that something can—will—sing back.

I am miles inland from where I fixed my fondness.

When I sang, the coast came.

And camps and lanes fell in its wake.

Nicholas Molbert Originally from Louisiana's Gulf Coast, Nicholas now lives and writes in Cincinnati. He is the author of two chapbooks: Goodness Gracious (Foundlings Press, 2019) and Cocodrie Elegy (Foundlings Press, 2023). You can find his work at places like The Cincinnati Review, The Greensboro Review, Mississippi Review, and Missouri Review among others.