Daily Monsters: Three Poems
Where the Wild Things Are, Too
I want to tell my daughter the monsters
moving in the night are her parents.
I am a bare-chested wildebeest—
a minotaur with broken horns—
mom is something more subtle
and serpentine. She will turn
intruders into stone.
We throw our voices against the cave wall.
We aim to confuse. We snuff out the flames.
We hope you sleep through oblivion,
the packed bags and misplaced phones,
the dental floss leading out of the labyrinth.
We hope you wait years before slaying us
and ripping our arms out of their sockets
just for the hell of it,
until morning’s light
bashes our heads in.
Recent reports read that kudzu
roots are not so prevalent. That
the South’s monsters have been
exaggerated. And yet, in all
these black-and-white family photos,
our eyes shine green as Catholic Ireland.
The vines could not be harvested
and withered under blazing hoof-
beats and instead were planted
as a means for battling the wind—
In what forms were they ever really rooted?
Like anything foreign in one land
or the next, they grew from gardens
near the home, creeping in private
memories, around dinner plates
and bedposts, in the pastel soap
dish tucked beside the kitchen sink.
Like a latch key, a fleck of blood
no one knew existed turned some-
where in the night and gathered up
its seed, as a means for hiding some-
thing too sinister to be dissolved
in sweet tea and idle chatter.
These murmurs bleached their own
mythologies. The door standing ajar
permitted shadows to experiment
in either botany or prayer, and
the green monsters swallowing
alabaster moons dwindled
in rearview mirrors, until size
and shape were no larger than pup-
pets, with thumbs for ears—
Can I hitch a ride tonight?
The truck does not slow down for the man
standing on the shoulder, his arm
extended from the dark eaves
in an unanswerable optimism.
The vines choked the red brick
steeple, purple blossoms swinging
like bells in the morning light.
Kudzu roots tangled with our
heartstrings. The past has a name
flowing in the veins of the earth,
and the future hides in the shade
feasting on rows of broken church
pews and forlorn hymnal pages.
Do the words or the organ sound first?
The transient past bleeds into
the groundwater. They used to
spray herbicide on those vines
by the highway. Daddy laughed
at the wasted effort. When you plant
a seed, when the seed breaks open
to the will of the roots, then that wall
between was and is no longer stands
for anything. Perhaps the mighty vine
only swallowed a thumbnail “one-sixth
the size of Atlanta.” Well, anybody could still
hide a secret in a body that size, and any
body would still have a story to tell—
After picking suckers off tobacco stalks,
we would drink from an unwashed cup.
I could mine the metal in the cool drops;
the flavor of gold fillings in my grandpa’s mouth—
the sustenance of his words on my tongue,
his pronunciation of the word bum: as if
it could be pronounced bomb and
leave its meaning unchanged in the eyes
and ears of his captive children. The dogs
sniffed out the tiny bones near the lattice
wrapped in grapevines, but they found no
name for its toothless jaws.
Could you touch the nature of it if you rolled down the window—
or would you be left holding the sound of cicadas in bloom?
Speaking with Mammoths
We shiver in the Arctic
of the ICU. These bodies
on beds like polar bears
with urine-colored fur.
They are noble, and they
are dying. Doctors
at a distance jot down notes.
His head is a weak vulture
on white sheets. His teeth
are yellow with cannibalism.
I watch him now with his
absence of speed and purpose.
He floats on his iceberg bed.
“Tell me about the mammoth!”
I almost scream, but his posture
is unnatural as he recedes
into the pillow. His life retreats,
but I can still feel the mass
of his piercing tusk—
that act of fire and blood.
Underneath the glacier’s thrust
are scars cutting the stone.
He is cold now, but he was colder
then—even as he blanketed my
body and devoured its shape
with child and marriage and
now this unnamed state.