South, Prairie du Chien, Steamboat Travel

South, Prairie du Chien, Mississippi River Valley

Terry Scott Niebeling

 

Wake up in Prairie du Chien, Nähe Le Villa Louis.

 

Lay cold to the touch, on a rolled up sleeping bag.

You are not within.

You are without.

 

So early you feel like askin’.

-Time is it?

5:30 AM.

 

Surrounded by what you need:  Water.

Drank so much it made you so thirsty.

 

Noise from the generator wakes you-

A voice, Dave, a question-

He, a tall blond first mate, imagine rugged, stands above.

 

We refuel.

 

River smell rich, insects, and spider’s webs remain about you.

You ponder, your eyes shift, how many did you swallow?

 

Sit perched below the bar rail, a kicking spot.

-A useless lot.

-Where you squat.

You sad sit this shit.

Might as well sit out.

Close to go, avoid the hitch.

You have all the wherewithal to slouch.

 

Sleep eating, drinking-peeing, while hardly sleeping through the night.

Mop in hand, Dave asks again, cleaning a mess.

 

I pissed the deck, didn’t I?

 

He says, “Get Up!”  You say you haven’t slept.

Mums the word, I am told.

 

Sore throat sun in your eyes- weak dried out post drunk haze in your mind.

 

The smell of gasoline-or oil, or whatever powers this big bright red paddle.

 

Feels like a stiff neck, stiff legs, and a stiff arm, feels like it just hit me, my alarm.

Feels like a stretch.

 

Over the next few moments everyone showed.

There was an hour’s ride home-no service, no phone.

 

Took in whitecaps and tree tops along the drive.

Times like these along the river so full of insight.

 

Thank you for the ride, it’s good to be back in La Crosse.

Now Goodbye.

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