Two Poems by Kevin McIlvoy

The existence condition

There is a distempered raccoon 
who visits our outdoor taps
in this neighborhood. There is
an elderly woman whose
eldest son has shown her the
NextDoor app where every
evening she writes up her
reports on what she has seen.
There is, according to her,
a nightly prowler, a male
she recognizes, looking
in through the master bedroom 
and the kitchen windows,
walking stick or long gun – hard
to tell – at his side. There have
been unlawful leaf bonfires 
set by the very same man, 
an old self-identified
Army veteran plumber, 
a NextDoor favorite that 
she has outed as never 
serving our country ever.
There is the family of
father and mother raccoon
and bandit kits, skeletal,
taking turns gripping the moist,
cold spouts. Winter’s here, she writes, 
Isn’t there some animal
hospice that would take them? Is 
there danger of rabies from 
them? No traps that won’t hurt them?
They are slow now and stumbling,
their usual hissing sounds
are hoarse, she tells us, worried
that they are too ill to eat 
the nourishment she leaves them. 
Defiantly, she claims she 
has not offered them her eight
newborn kittens as food, a
rumor repeated widely.
Is there proof? she asks. There is
none, her loyal son writes, Q 
Anon Jehovah’s Witness, 
who canvasses regular 
as rain with his leather case 
of Watch Tower pamphlets on 
his shoulder, his soft-hard-soft
knock at our doors, his shiny,
rigid grin (no Covid-mask 
on), with his calm warnings of 
the signs of damnation and 
dementia in this world
of unrighteous neighbors. There
is, he says, no hope for us
except through the Father, no
algorithm except His. There
is no path, he says, but the
one path, and he says he will 
pray for us, really means this, 
and says he will return, and 
we know he will. He follows
the alleys back home to his 
mother who has lived there in 
her dead parents’ home since she 
was nineteen, when her perfect
young wings were strong and bright as
a dragonfly’s. Her son’s dad,
an avid NextDoor user,
lives four houses down. Wanting
to make trouble, he requests 
that she put up a picture 
of the edible kittens, 
asks, Are you gonna sell them?


In late larval stage
she curled this leaf around her –
through cold wind she rocked

near her mother tree
from which stark shadows reached
and warm light-hours.

Other autumn scrolls
clustered around her, deepened
their sleep and hers.

You couldn’t believe
her instinct for surviving
another season – 

until you saw her
and her kind in their costumes – 
bright testimonies –

until you witnessed
her veins of fire brightening
upon leaves greening – 
until you pulled sheets
around you, entered again
the book Mother left.

Kevin McIlvoy lives in Asheville, North Carolina. His first poetry manuscript, The River Scratch, includes poems that appear in Superstition Review, Willow Springs, The Georgia Review, Scoundrel Time, Consequence, Your Impossible Voice, River Heron Review, Barzakh, The Night Heron Barks, JMWW, and other magazines. His novel, One Kind Favor, was published by WTAW Press in 2021; he has published seven other works of fiction.