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Janet Was Right: I Am a Bad Man


Barrett Warner

It wasn’t something I could fix by swimming sideways.
That was how dolphins made love,
swimming sideways.

I perfected a kind of one-handed stroke,
the sidearm-butterfly-half wing crawl.
Beach police blew whistles at me all the time.

I wanted to be a dolphin and to make love
with Janet who sold small town bagels
and sang about Chevy roadsters and Paris,

going sideways across dirt roads,
full of chapter, and verse, and kissing,
and Solomon’s modulated radio wave.

One day we found
a dead dolphin swollen in the surf.
Janet stared at the bruised tongue
hanging from the side of its jaw.

What can anyone say?—
mischievous breakers, fishing vessels, nets, and hooks?
It was dead. Janet, bless her,
never asked me why.

Barrett Warner is the author of My Friend Ken Harvey and his new poems can be experienced in Carolina Quarterly, Pyrene's Fountain, and Cutleaf. He ranges throughout lower South Carolina where the holy tide speaks with Gullah phrasing.

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