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Kate Gale

Pharaoh’s Army

The pond swarms with horse flies.

We got choke cherries we eating.


We thick full of blackberries. 

Our legs bramble torn. We got fish to catch.


Enough for dinner. There’s four of us.

I already got ten fish.  This pond’s a full of ‘em.


You can hear bull frogs.  You can see the bull rushes

with ducklings, the cat o nine tails growing along the edges


some of em stripped out for duckling nests.

Them boys heads is all shaved. We got three hours


to catch these fish, then we cook em with the cornmeal

in the oven with grilled onions; it’s so much better


than when we got to eat liver and onion. 

We get big slugs up and down our legs. Them boys take off them shorts


down to them whities, they got them slugs up near their privates.

Huge black slugs crawling up their legs.  Me and Betty we keep


plucking off our stomachs and our legs, I aint about to get no

creepy slug up in my girl parts, no way.  The buckets are filling with the fishes.


The boys are drinking haymakers while we fishin’ and screamin’

the Lord gave me another fish! The God Almighty gave me another fish.


We gonna have us sugar snap peas with these here fish, and I still gots

to do the snapping so we gots to finish fishing and gutting and Betty’s


gonna be rolling em in cornmeal while I get the peas ready while the boys

are gonna clean up the fishing stuff which takes two minutes but they’ll say


takes all evening.  Right now though, we’re fishing and we got all afternoon,

the sunlight inside the pond, yellow and muddy; and these leeches


seem to come from inside us; they’re dragging us under.  Sing to us, Betty says,

and I start, “oh Mary don’t you weep don’t you mourn, Pharoah’s army got drowned.”


The bullfrogs and leeches all around us.  The dragonflies and horseflies on the pond.

We could be dragged under; or we could disappear off the surface and float away.

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Dr. KATE GALE is co-founder and Managing Editor of Red Hen Press and Editor of the Los Angeles Review.  She teaches in the Low Residency MFA program at the University of Nebraska in Poetry, Fiction, and Creative Non-Fiction.


She is the author of Under a Neon Sun forthcoming from Three Lives Press in New York.  


She is the author of The Loneliest Girl from the University of New Mexico Press and of seven books of poetry including The Goldilocks Zone from the University of New Mexico Press in 2014, and Echo Light from Red Mountain in 2014, and six librettos including Rio de Sangre, a libretto for an opera with composer Don Davis, which had its world premiere October 2010 at the Florentine Opera in Milwaukee.  

She speaks on independent publishing at schools including USC, Harvard, Columbia and Oxford University.  Her opera in process is and an opera on Che Guevara is in process with Cuban composer Armando Bayolo.  Her opera on Esther written for the singer Hila Plitmann is in process with the composer Mark Abel.

Bear Review


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