David Southward


Mystery Solved

They showed up daily on the news:
human feet, still in their shoes,
found on a coastline—quite alone
and severed at the anklebone.

Who were their owners? What cruel joke
was played on the truncated folk?
Had they been victims of a shark?
A psychopath’s revolting lark?

The thought of litter so horrific
made the seaside less pacific.
Attendance at the beaches slumped.
Police admitted: they were stumped.

Until the lucky day, that is,
a diligent forensic wiz,
by studying the ocean’s tides,
retraced the paths of suicides

who’d leapt from bridges miles away
and drifted . . . to become the prey
of hungry fish (who somehow knew
that Nikes weren’t worth chewing through).

It’s strange: although these souls gave in,
their shoes proved tougher than their skin.
The spring with which all hope was hurled
kept one foot planted in this world.

Lessons of Etymology

How does a name become a word—
the syllables which once referred
to someone, doubling as a term
that spreads like an infectious germ?

Did rumors swirl when ladies danced
in Amelia Bloomer’s skirtless pants?
Or scandal graze the second skin
that Monsieur Léotard waltzed in?

Maybe it’s praise for work done right:
high fives for Daniel Fahrenheit;
our amped-up thanks (it’s only fair)
to dear André-Marie Ampère.

Long pedigrees may feed some trends.
The Earl of Sandwich’s won’t end!
A vintage chic is half the fun
of dressing like Lord Cardigan.

Brand names, as a general rule,
will stick like Rudolf Diesel’s fuel,
or sink in with the warm blub-blub
of a Jacuzzi Brothers tub.

Scofflaws who drive their towns berserk
(like Charles Boycott—what a jerk!)
get branded, too. It did the trick
for ranchman Samuel Maverick.

But fame can take unheard-of forms.
Few wagered on the steel hailstorms
of Henry Shrapnel. None foresaw
the fate of Colonel Lynch’s law.

Best to supply a pressing want,
as Louis Braille did with his font;
or die in shadow—like the debt
we trace to Etienne Silhouette.

David Southward grew up in southwest Florida and earned degrees in English from Northwestern and Yale. He teaches literature, film, and comics in the Honors College at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He and his husband, Geoff, enjoy cooking, gardening, traveling, and taking adventurous walks with their beagle, Sammy. David’s poems have appeared most recently in POEM, Verse-Virtual, Stoneboat, Measure, and Unsplendid.