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,
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,
back and forth.
A dead possum
spills its guts on the road
outside the trails,
right next to where
it could have found
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
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.