PleaseDoNotFeedtheWaterFowlEight of them, silhouetted against the paddlewheel steamboat…four boys, four girls.

They slouch there, ill-at-ease in their unaccustomed finery.

The I74 bridge looms behind them in the distance.

One girl, chilled by the spring breeze, wears her date’s jacket slung casually around her shoulders.  She stares at the ground.  Is she thinking about the night ahead? Is she thinking about the future, as she shivers, clutching her evening bag?

“Are we grown? Are we ready?”

The blond athletic-looking boy in the white Saturday Night Fever suit and white shoes wears a turquoise tie and matching handkerchief.  He coordinates with his date’s turquoise strapless formal.

Willl they always be this in tune with each other, this harmonious?  Are they a couple only for now, only for tonight, only at this moment in time?

He squints, staring at the camera.

“Are we grown? Are we ready? Are we having fun yet?”

What lies across that bridge…across the Mississippi River…across time?

What does the future hold when Prom night ends?

“Are we grown? Are we ready?

In youth, the future stretches out forever, spins on like an endless ribbon, an eternity of time, an infinite river of days and nights and dances and dates.  But this is Prom night, and the end of high school is near.

“Are we grown? Are we ready?”

The sign reads: “Please do not feed the waterfowl.”

If only there were other signs.  Signs to instruct.  Signs to warn about the future.

For now, it is just “Please do not feed the waterfowl.”

(Public reading at either the Midwest Writing Center or in the Rock Island District at 7 p.m. on Thursday, October 22nd. I will be present with copies of 3 of my previous books: “Both Sides Now” (some poetry included); “Ghosts of Route 66” (Vol I); and “Out of Time,” a novel.)