Caddo Lake Elixir
JC Reilly

Vidalia tethers the Brittle Moon
to a thick cypress on the Texas side
of Tar Island Slough, while I nurse
my hands from the paddles’ chafing.

It didn’t seem so far from Hawley Arm
when we set out after supper,
but half-a-mile’s rowing
has brought out the mosquitoes,
and the sky sinking to purple
casts its reproach along with the shadows:

it’s more than a mile around the island,
and there might be gators—
worries too mundane for Vidalia’s magick,
but not for me. To navigate by starlight
might work for sea captains,
but I have neither sextant or compass
to guide our voyage back, and hope
someone turns on the lantern at the pier.

Undaunted, she opens her satchel,
draws out a beeswax candle, cardamom,
clove, and damiana leaves. She lights
the candle on the seat beside her, scoops
some lake water in a bowl, tosses in the herbs.
This she heats above the flame a few minutes,
whispers words too soft to be heard
over the bullfrogs and cicadas, then sips.

If she twists up her face like a dish towel
at the taste, I don’t see it, but feel my own
wrinkle in sympathy. “So mote it be,”
she says, pouring the rest back into the lake,
and blowing out the candle whose smoke
threads its way unseen into the fabric
of the evening. “We can go.”

She unties the boat from the tree
and pushes us back into the channel.
As the paddles cut through the slough, a hint
of clove catches on the breeze like grace.

JC Reilly writes across genres and has received Pushcart and Wigleaf nominations for her work. She serves as the Managing Editor of the Atlanta Review and has pieces published or forthcoming in POEM, The Absurdist, Picaroon Poetry, Hawai’i Pacific Review, Imperfect Fiction, the Arkansas Review, and Rabbit: a Journal of Nonfiction Poetry. When she isn’t writing, she plays tennis or works on improving her Italian.