It’s never a matter of value. When I’m standing at the edge of the cypress grove looking over the coastline, I can tell it’s receding, inching back into the swamp. No doubt the water’s rising. It’ll drown us all. Eventually. It’ll lick away every piece of swamp I stand on. But it’ll do it with the leisure of a glacier. There’s time, always. And then from the boat launch a woman screams like her life depends on it, and choice disappears. You go instantly. No thought. No time for theory or data or analysis. On the dock, a scientist has gone mad having drunk his own formula. He’s chased the dress half off this screaming woman. And she needs your help, now. Time evaporates into the sky, and this moment of crisis demands you act. It’s not that the woman’s life is somehow paramount, her loss more important than the coast’s. It’s just that her screams boil all time away, and a scientist is always easier to break than bad habits.
Jack B. Bedell is Professor of English and Coordinator of Creative Writing at Southeastern Louisiana University where he also edits Louisiana Literature and directs the Louisiana Literature Press. Jack’s work has appeared in Southern Review, Pidgeonholes, The Shore, Okay Donkey, EcoTheo, The Hopper, Terrain, and other journals. His latest collection is Color All Maps New (Mercer University Press, 2021). He served as Louisiana Poet Laureate 2017-2019.