· SPRING /FALL 2013 | VOLUME 9 | ISSUE 1 ·

Rougarou, an online literary journal.

The Wetland Ecologist’s Daughter

Suzanne Richardson

Daddy, you go to the swamps of Florida
sour dots of sweat on your lips as
you hulk your body, drive
that auger down into slick earth. 8 foot
cottonmouths fall on your lap from the cypress trees, but
you aren’t scared, even as
gators acknowledge you by
striking your airboat, their coin-slot
eyeballs and muddy snouts breaking
the water. Daddy,
you went to Iraq. You tell anyone who will
listen that you couldn’t sleep; weapon
fire at night, and it’s
just too hot to eat. In the convoy
by the checkpoint, your stomach cramping
with parasites, you told the dumb-shit
British water ecologist to get the fuck back in the Humvee.
You had dinner with a Sheik. You bit
into a fish head with
a marsh Arab. A fish eye — hard to
swallow in your opinion. You
tried to restore what Saddam drained: it’s a salt pit,
a brine hole, overrun with acid.
Beside the Euphrates the microscopes got blown up.
The smart scientists are women and
they’re hiding behind the
book cases. The food chain is upside down. Bottom
on top and top on bottom. It’s
ungodly there to eat a catfish
or a pig. Those Marines, though,
they helped themselves. You took
a picture sitting on Saddam’s throne, and
after that you came back. Daddy,
you say you saw those fields of oil on fire,
the uneven lines of heat rising up to an
unfamiliar God. You say Iraq or bust. You say
people with fake passports were your friends, are
your friends, are people you know
by two names and one heart. Daddy,
you did all this because you sat in a science class
one day that smelled like snakes, and was
wet-hot like a terrarium. And
the light poured on you, and your number two pencil,
and you drank, and drank until it wasn’t drinking, it
was breathing, you were finally home. Like a patient
eel you had found your