A genii who once blew a ferret into pink mist
with the birdshot double-load Mister kept to pepper
the ass of any fool tried to steal so much as a rusty nail—
Lola Bank granted no wish ever, work the thing
& lucky to have it & squat in your own shit
for a year if you don’t like it. I did like it & learned it
long after no one alive had ever seen a ferret raise up
on hind legs at the end of the dock Lola & Mister
shared with his cousins. Grandma Bank owned that end
of Port Elizabeth & her wish was law well beyond family.
No one knew what a ferret was till Mister read the article
in Collier’s after concluding his wife hadn’t shot a weasel
or a cat. We worked like mules, air so thick in summer
you could scrape a kitchen knife down your arm & salt
your food with what flaked off. We had water rats
& dogs who loved killing them. Lola was Ma Barker
only tall, black as creosote & the real mayor of Tuckahoe,
Port Elizabeth & far away as Brotmanville. The dogs tore
rats & raccoons apart & bloodied one another doing it.
Not old enough yet to work, I found a wood-spoked
wheel one day far back in the meadows & brought it to her.
She touched it, nodded, glanced at Mister & said So that’s
where she is & waved me home. It’s not memory
if you’re living it. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s heat & salt
& hatred of endings though that’s what happens.
John Repp grew up along the Blackwater Branch of the Maurice River in southern New Jersey and has lived for many years in Erie, Pennsylvania. Broadstone Books has just published a volume of selected and new poems entitled The Soul of Rock & Roll: Poems Acoustic, Electric & Remixed, 1980-2020.