Jerome Ellison Murphy
At first, you resist the infestation.
Along some twelve-mile stretch of canal
and corollary waterways like capillaries,
it had darted, it had fed,
vague as one margin of vision.
It was other, it was elsewhere, out there;
on the far side of hills; on occasion.
Then came our black and white markets,
to box and ship and deliver as pets
this most irresistible guest. How soon
it was everywhere, riding pockets and backs.
Reports now confirm its killings of conversations and pets.
It is known to consume some domestic cats.
Our neighbors soon discovered one man who flashed
bones like mortality’s own exhibitionist, along with
his cats, three tanks of Madagascar hissing roaches,
then not a few well-fed monitors.
“He was bit by those quite a few times,”
quoth a neighbor. “I used to kid to him,
‘One of these days, you’re going to wake up
and your arm is going to be missing.'”
Not hazardous, it was said, unless
harassed. In the wild, in the past
having worked up its appetite from crickets,
from silkworms, it fed on eggs,
little critters of our distraction, pests—
whatever it might overpower.
That cage at last from which it burst
had bewitched us, oleaginous with uses,
aphrodisiac. How it paced in there,
shifting twigs and the substrate underfoot.
In our midst how that habitation took root!
Now it’s loose in the house, and out back.
Lop away its extremities, they swell back fat.
Well have I fed it with short-term memory,
with trivial retentions, with digits,
then, slowly, bit by bit,
yellow and green tendrils
of some old propensity to dream—
what will be edible next?
Fukushima dolphins flop ashore
white-lunged, irradiated slugs.
The autopsy hums.
The monitor sits and watches, cold-blooded.
Its eye-slit, expressionless, is shifting
to follow the lifted remote, the slid mouse.
Another bomb goes off, its tail flicks.
Earthquake, sex tape, it tracks all clicks.
First, those crickets
of distracted inattention
it had snapped up
without much cost or fuss.
Now news is watching us.
now this news is watching us nap,
licking its lips
as REM state ripens,
unsatisfied till it eats us insomniac.
In guardian guise, shifts
distended drills, its tentacular appendage
tapered to fractal and follicular fineness
tickling fancies with kaddish
and Kardashian. Delicate,
silicate, it refines its tips, responsive
as tremulous water meniscus
or the ocular membrane
where microclusters of protein
loom into floaters, like protozoa.
This shadowpuppet show must go on,
its low hum and hiss, sibilant as an ambulance tire
some unseen saboteur’s switchblade has kissed.
Now the news crevices and moves, at large,
our distraction its fronded camouflage.
Where now does the invisible septum pulse?
I vividly remember that little pet escaped, how we
tiptoed all afternoon till at last it was found
clinging to the curtain, a live gray stain.
Back into the tank with that bifurcated tongue!
Then contortion in the enclosure, till
it cracked, like that silverback in one
Nebraskan zoo, all the glass walls with its pulsing,
Kundalini-like the appetite uncoils.
Semi-aquatic, parthenogenetic, it adapts.
What’s edible next, in that corner
of the den, in that mirror of inverse
evolutionary progress? All day
I’ve sat here, devolved. Slow, undulant
amalgam of consumption
irritates, oxygenates the system:
a symbiosis. What’s next—
our attraction, our affection?
all lidless night,
all inclusive appetite,
it basks and asks how long it has
before this host is extinct with satisfaction.