Habitat

Who hasn’t gotten drunk in a bar like this—
near a beach, maybe Florida, on spring break
or a business trip or post-divorce getaway?
Where the neon scrawl of Budweiser
or Coors Light, or the too-green shape of a palm tree
seeps through the dirty screen of cigarette smoke.

No long-expired license plates scale these walls,
no baseball caps on nails. Here,
strung-up fishing nets hold dried detritus—
seaweed, starfish, sand dollars. A mounted sailfish,
the five-foot shell of a loggerhead, a thing
like the blade of a chainsaw—you can’t stop staring.

When the run-ragged bartender brings your fourth margarita,
you point: What the hell? She makes a gesture
that pretends to grow her nose.
And because the tequila has turned your brain
into an ecosystem swimming with trivia, you remember.
Sawfish: dinosaur. Around, you’ve read,
56 million years or more. “Critically endangered.”

You know the type. A sun-blistered, soft-bellied jock
with a rod and reel and switchblade.
Nudged it one step closer toward “likely extinct.”
In fact, there he sits, three stools over, downing shots.
Past time, you lift a fist-sized hunk of coral,
anchor your tip, veer toward the door.

Maybe it’s the booze or maybe not. But you see clear
through the dingy air, the trophy-hung,
salt-damp walls—see the water rising, as though to take
all of it back—the Gulf set to a boil.

Ashley Mace Havird

Ashley Mace Havird

Ashley Mace Havird’s fourth collection of poems, Wild Juice, will be published in the Southern Messenger Poets Series (LSU Press) in Spring 2021. The Garden of the Fugitives (Texas Review Press, 2014) won the X. J. Kennedy Prize. Her poems have appeared in many journals, most recently Image, Sewanee Review, and American Journal of Poetry. Her novel, Lightningstruck (Mercer University Press, 2016), won the Ferrol Sams Award for Fiction. www.ashleymacehavird.com.
Ashley Mace Havird

Latest posts by Ashley Mace Havird (see all)

Author: Ashley Mace Havird

Ashley Mace Havird’s fourth collection of poems, Wild Juice, will be published in the Southern Messenger Poets Series (LSU Press) in Spring 2021. The Garden of the Fugitives (Texas Review Press, 2014) won the X. J. Kennedy Prize. Her poems have appeared in many journals, most recently Image, Sewanee Review, and American Journal of Poetry. Her novel, Lightningstruck (Mercer University Press, 2016), won the Ferrol Sams Award for Fiction. www.ashleymacehavird.com.