At the coastal fort, she gallivanted
with her husband and her oldest friend
while her father napped in the car. He’d warned
of alligators

if they walked the woods ringing the walls
that surprised her, how they seemed built in,
intuitive to the headland’s hills,
as if earth wanted

fortification, a marriage with bastions,
embrasures, almost five million bricks
ocean-lit, and all of it obsolete,

by the time the Union reoccupied
the southern seaboard. As he likes to,
her husband recounted histories
of weaponry

while they played by cannons’ anchored wheels,
their surprise-face mouths tipped towards
the state-line buoys bouncing ideas
across the water.

She followed her friend into a barrack’s
stairwell, where the air was graveyard dark,
and they peeked out corniced windows meant
for rifles, framing

waves where the St. Marys meets the sea,
after starting as the River Styx
just west of the Okefenokee swamp.
Her dad showed up

to walk the pier that gives a view
of Kings Bay Naval Base, where twice
or so a year, U.S. nuclear

sail out. He had heard it was something
to see: the alarms ear-splitting for miles
while the sub, not yet submerged, enters
the estuary,

flanked by Coast Guard boats, machine guns
manned on each top deck—and just then,
they felt red sirens shake cement.
A beast was leaving,

and her husband started to run like she
had never seen him run, fast enough
he could pretend he couldn’t hear
her slow down yells.

In The Last Crusade, Elsa tells Indy
that his missing father was, in a moment
of discovery, “as giddy as
a schoolboy,” to which

Indy, surprised and a little jealous,
a bit hurt, replies, “He was never giddy,
even when he was a schoolboy.” She watched
her father jog

then limp toward it, while her friend refused
to move, her arms crossed in a pose
of not gonna. She wandered between
the three of them

as it glided by, more enormous
than girlhood ideas of enormous,
with the guardsmen at their posts like those
tiny soldiers

who come attached to their own plot of ground,
to steady their plastic shooting position.
A long exhale, the periscope

and still, her husband talked, gazed out.
Imagine these Ohioans
gathered on that salted shore,
like a wedding

thick with worry the pair will never
really get each other. And the craft
already in the fathoms, earning
the payload that left

them in its wash. She wanted to swim
out, wrestle the brute—like Indy climbs
a Nazi tank on desert cliffs
to save what’s trapped

inside—and take its torpedo cheeks
in her hands to whisper-shout: Now tell me
you sonofabitch, how can I make
him that happy?

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 42 Number 1, on page 28
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