Belle of Louisville



I lean over the rail,

watch the red paddle wheel

stir water to a froth,


throwing mist and October air

blown down from Indiana

into my face.


Sometimes steam blinds me

and smells of old pipes,

like a laundry.


On deck number two

they’re playing rag time

and I think of New Orleans


how I’ve never been there

and of the Titanic which

had no steam but a grand staircase,


then of a book I read

about a steam boat captain

and his red head bride.


I live there

in ball room dance days

and Mark Twain memories


until a student asked,

“Teacher, you got a quarter?”

In 1983



we lived
in a four room house,
without plumbing,
cooked mayonnaise biscuits
in a toaster oven
and shot outhouse snakes
with the landlord’s pistol.

The world sang
back then when
a creek bed was heaven
and climbing that bluff,
romantic adventure.
Lord a mercy,
everything was romance

even two dollar bottles
of grape juice
nobody sold wine.