Poem: “Imago”


In the Smoky Mountains, Tennessee

The license plates line up
in the gravel parking lot of Clingman’s Dome.
The fathers step out, groan, and unfold.
The children crack the road-trip hull
and their mothers do not scold.

The blue fog
of the Smoky Mountains brings them here.
A Cherokee curiosity,
the Shaconage. That sky-colored smoke
is sacred to the dead. The tourists tromp
to sunrise, and disappear—

and now it’s night.
The locusts boil under my feet.
They feed on chalky deer minds, skulls beneath
more skulls, from a thousand hunts
once holy. The topsoil turns
in the larvae-heating roil.

The egg-gorged mothers rise
and take the trees. Their children hatch and fall
and feed on this tuber. Summer dies.
Another summer lives. My dry roots crack
and splinter. The nymph crawls
and claws the bark, sucks sap, and bulges

against the bone skin. It cracks out and leaves itself,
a split-open body-skull, left to clutch
the sycamore’s peeled bark.
The imago rises in the vaporous dark.
Green wings pulse and unfold. Its hammerhead
figures me, its blood eyes at the poles.

It bellies in where it can,
where it’s been before. I can feel it
in the crawlspace, down the corridor
into this sandstone chamber, where it camps.
Its hollow gut pulls the tymbal taut
into a kettledrum.

It is a holy thrum.
For hate is holy. Hatred longs
to jab its jagged note into my sap.
Imago kin: Forty-seven years, your song.
And yet I hold here, howling
right along.

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