Flood Cough Case 34671, CDC Report, Accomack County, VA Following Hurricane _____. – Stephen Scott Whitaker

We had come up into the neighbor’s yard,
saltwash it was, floodwastes, bringing debris
from yacht wrecks
clogging the sound.
Not to mention the dead, bloated back to their toes
from three days of water slogging.
We had come up
to get the skiff.
It was clear we were on our own,
the skiff could take our dogs
and cats
to the shallows.
Arnie and TJ are tight. Willie and I are A-OK.
They bugged out week before.
Took longer than we expected, the skiff,
our animals, food, water, gas.
One of their cows had drowned
and washed butt up
against the porch
where TJ’s skiff was washed back to,
and all the back and forth, lifting
and splashing
in grave water brine.
The cough,
the cough gripped me that night.
Arnie didn’t think it could be related,
but between me and you, he don’t know nothing.
Allergies, exhaustion, mother left us in August.
It hurts and scratches
in the shape of apple at the back of the throat.
A raspy rough circle that aches like regret.
104, Doc said.
Fever peeled me to the core,
left bitter seeds.
Fever broke,
cough stayed.
At least I got a story, Arnie says,
but between me and you, he don’t know nothing.

Stephen Scott WhitakerStephen Scott Whitaker is a member of National Book Critics Circle, and managing editor for The Broadkill Review. His poetry, fiction, and essays have appeared in dozens of publications including Oxford Poetry, Anderbo, Grub Street, and others. His collection and chapbooks include All My Rowdy Friends, The Black Narrows, Field Recordings, and The Barleyhouse Letters. He lives on the Eastern Shore of Virginia with his family.