Three Poems by Camille McCarthy


A new van arrived two years past, 
the old abandoned in the guest 
spot. Now yellow jackets nest 
in the trunk and driver’s door, 
the crack between interior and exterior 
wide enough for their segmented forms, 
their papier mâché dens 
protected from the elements, 
from the landscapers and the pest 
control man. The white of the paint 
has relaxed into a scrim of moss 
like raintracks down the side. 
Mud gathers in crusty waves underneath the frame; 
tires sag. The front bumper is cracked, 
and the crepe myrtle molts petals and seeds 
to lodge there and decompose. 

If I kept still long enough, 
would vines encircle my legs, 
morning glories 
bloom from my arms, 
cardinals felt my hair into nests, 
and lichens gray my skin? 

Highway Noise in Winter

Moss creeps over the road 
where the trees were clear-cut 
to build an observatory, a minuscule version 
of the one planned atop Mauna Kea,
the sacred Hawaiian mountain 
with thirteen telescopes already. 

Dormant milkweed rustles 
like dried cornstalks. Even here, 
LED lights glow all night. 
Rain that should be snow 
mists the dark trees, dead-looking 
save the tutu frills of the evergreen pines, 
vivacious next to naked gray neighbors. 
Easy to imagine 
the world has died. 

Neon bags of dog shit 
dot the trails like Easter eggs. 
A bear gave birth 
a year ago, in this corner, 
in the brush, 
next to the trails where everyone 
lets their dogs off-leash, 
the cubs’ cries
like caterwauling felines.

Absent soundproofing leaves 
and humming insects 
I can hear the highway beyond the ridge 
like a rushing river, 
a hellish humming roar, 
like the Om sound of the universe, 
high-pitched and unceasing, 
waves crashing but not receding, 
sound of a glass polished, 
crystal goblet rubbed. Ebb and flow 
of certain putters, 
motorcycles and large trucks, 
but the broken muffler speeding tires rubber heavy machinery 
combusting to carbon dioxide never halts, 
only Dopplers 
back and forth.  

A dead possum 
spills its guts on the road 
outside the trails, 
right next to where 
it could have found 
(temporary) safety. 

Infinite Growth

When the scraped ground warms, 
the vines grow straight up 
like zombie arms 
raised above their graves, 
questing like ticks. 

Deep roots regurgitate energy 
to stems sprouting elephant-ear leaves 
which track sunbeams. 
Green waves flow forth 
over manicured edges 
of grass shorn close. 

The tendrils twist 
‘round stunted ornamentals, 
smother that dry clay 
in a heap of green, 
adding more panels 
to their arrays of solar absorption, 
plumping the starchy roots below 
which allow their survival 
for seven dormant months. 

Every two weeks 
groundskeepers douse the kudzu 
with blue-green spray; 
the leaves turn black, shrivel and wither; 
mowers shred the leaves and chop 
vines back to nubs. 

Days later, the shoots 
rise again 
with raised fists, 

they haven’t forgotten

that we imported their seeds
in the ‘30s to save the agricultural South, 
asphyxiating on erosion and poverty; 

it was us who cast them aside, 
stopped using their plenty for graze,
turned to military leftovers 
to fix our nitrogen,
called them invasive, 
cursed the same qualities
we exploited them for.  

Camille McCarthy lives in Asheville, North Carolina. She has been published in the Great Smokies Review, the 2020 Winter Anthology from Other Worldly Women Press, and Human/Kind Journal.