On a Boy Scout camping trip to Assateague Island
to watch wild ponies cross the Chincoteague Channel,
horse shit covered every dirt camp road.
Amid marshy trails overgrown with wildflowers,
it wasn’t long before someone threw a handful and someone
got hit and after that, we never stopped throwing shit.
We disregarded the majesty of these ponies, supposedly
descendants of a shipwrecked Spanish Galleon’s cargo,
throwing shit when they emerged from crisp blue waters
and even more shit when the herd stampeded past us.
In the morning, dew shimmered and reflected
the rising sun while the ponies grazed on lush wet grass.
We woke up early to throw shit at each other.
Then, we saw some girls from Poughkeepsie
and threw shit at them too; we were sure
one day they’d marry us and we’d start a whole family
who’d never learn to leave it on the ground.
Francis Luvenson former owner
of Frankie Luv’s Live Freaks and Oddities
finally retired and opened a Bible Camp.
The only remnants of his traveling side-show days
were arms full of tattoos he referred
to as “dermographs” when questioned about them
on parent’s night and the beloved ostriches
that had accompanied his showgirls on stage.
The property adjacent to Francis’s Christian Retreat
for Children was used as a retirement farm
for the ostriches and as kids we would often
watch them from the safe side of a chain-link fence.
On a dare from a classmate, I threw a tennis ball over
hoping to scare the awkward bird into flight.
The large featured creature immediately bent down
its long neck and swallowed the ball whole.
You could see it sitting like a huge goiter
and Mr. Francis came out with a big ladder;
“Don’t worry, kids. I’ll get your ball back.”
He proceeded to climb up the ladder and reach
his arm down the bird’s throat to retrieve it.
“There you go, bud,” he said, wiping ostrich
phlegm on his shirt, before tossing the ball back.
We decided it was too grimy to play with
but the following day it was mixed in with the rest
and without the stigma of its history,
it was saved by Mr. Francis same as Frankie was by Jesus
baptized in forgiveness on the condition of anonymity.
Meeting the Devil
A woman on a Peter Pan bus headed to Pensacola
told me Satan put dinosaur fossils on the Earth
to test our faith in Jesus Christ when I asked
if she’d been to the Florida Natural History Museum.
I always saw Satan as more of a cigarette smoking Santa
or a slick, Kris Kristofferson, silver-tongued-devil
but this fiend who leaves cigarettes in the ash tray
to hook the next guy seemed plausible as well.
I’d been six months sober and made my way down
a public swimming hole, tackle-box-in-hand
just as the game warden was chasing out some Mexicans
who started a beach fire for a hot-dog roast.
A buddy waved me over to show they’d ditched
a six-pack of still-cold-cans of Modelo in a trash bin
by the lake to avoid an open-container charge
so we split them then quit fishing to hit the liquor store.
I’d alleged the devil embodied my buddy
but he also could’ve planted the beer
like fossils of a reptilian past I couldn’t evolve out of
that no meteor or Good Book would cleanse.
This busty, middle-aged, turtlenecked-theologian
concluded I was Lucifer by compliance
that the devil was a disease of Godly defiance
over a beer at a rest stop pub, convening with ol’ Beelzebub.
I’ve heard people say frog legs taste
like chicken but those people are mistaken.
Frogs taste like the bayou they came from.
The water soaks into their flesh
like a strong accent or work ethic.
You can taste their homeland, almost
hear them croak, while you feast
upon the aching muscles they built
hopping from lily pads to mossy logs.
The taste between a Louisiana Bullfrog
and a Florida Pigfrog is a cultural flavor
as different as the person out gigging for them .
Each bite evokes a vision that tells you
part of a distinct amphibious life.
A frog’s legs twitch as their cooked
still cold-blooded and determined
not to resolve to rigor mortis
before dancing upon their own grave.
You soon get past the superficial
tenderness and start to recognize
the subtle but innate variances of what
made them camouflage, mate, sing, jump
using moist legs, the color of sauce verte.
“Catfish” John Wojtowicz grew up working on his family’s azalea and rhododendron nursery in the backwoods of South Jersey. He is currently employed as a school social worker and takes every opportunity to combine this work with his passion for wilderness. Besides poetry, he likes bonfires, boots, and bluegrass. Previously publications include: Stoneboat, Five2one, Naugatuck River Review, El Portal, r.k.v.r.y, The Mom Egg, Light Journal, Driftwood and The Patterson Literary Review.