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A nautical poem

By Franny French

I'm skimming over the years
to the only time
I ever drove a speedboat.
That was Florida, 1983;
I was 20. Six months down there
and I was sick of life-
no car, no license
and waitressing jobs
so far out I had to be
picked up by my drunken roommates,

who drank in the mornings
and on the job, who drank
all day that day we went out
on the boat of a friend of a friend,
a Florida crustacean
who told me late in the day
he'd like to sleep with me,

which was probably why,
at noon, he let me take the wheel
of that boat and knock it over the water,
which at high speeds felt just like the road—
cutting over asphalt that buckled
in the heat of a Florida May.

"Stay between those buoys!"
he shouted over the motor
as I took her up to a speed
I hadn't known I'd wanted to reach.
"Stay in the lane!"
he yelled. I didn't answer,
but drove the thread of our cut-open water
through the eye of those buoys,

which were closer together than they appeared
and knocked back and forth in the wake
like a couple of drunks.



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