Issue 35, Final Fringe

No End to the Horror

by Metta Sáma Issue 34 05.13.2013


You’re new to this place You marvel at the size of objects—large insects small mammals large plants small fruits small yards large houses—things are out of scale here You marvel There is a language used to make the ugly unugly the stereotyped desired They call the very large cockroach palmetto bug You see the insect and see a cockroach bloated long its antennae long searching searching searching You feel a kinship to this searching & envy the insect its antennae The insect rushes toward you & your tongue faints Your eyes are hyperextended The insect stops as suddenly as it began Someone will say something to you about Kafka when you recount this story & you will think again of scale—your large body its body tiny in comparison your enormous fear its boldness magnified by its surety—it will outlive you if not in this body in another body and another body and another body—too it has more legs than you can run further and faster than you can press itself into a flatness so absolute you shiver at the thought of your own body flattening the sound of bones crushing vessels compressing until they too pop—There is no escaping the insect Everywhere you walk it has walked Everywhere your eyes have touched its eyes have touched a hundred times You are small in your largeness Everything is out of scale here


You have become the caretaker of an animal You forget her name and call her le animal She swishes her tail and races past you When you bend to pet her she swipes you You’ve been told le animal is a great huntress—her favorite is the insect they call palmetto bug Your love for le animal begins like this: you have a great repulsion for the insect she has a great love for seeing the insect die You continue to submit your hands to the possibility of swipes Your hands become a landmine of scars Le animal begins to wait for you on thresholds You remember she is a huntress and you subject your hand to her swipe This time she doesn’t swipe she pushes her head under your hand & you have an ally in the hunt The first time you witness a kill your blood enters paralysis and your breath goes numb She brings the insect inside from the outside In her mouth the insect wiggles She lays the insect at your feet You cannot believe this betrayal You begin to think of the scale of love how your human love is all encompassing how you rub your hand over her fur whenever she comes for it even on the toilet when you want quiet you give your hand to her you think of the treats you buy her the new ways you construct to play with her old toys the promises you make her as if she is your child to play with her as soon as you’re done with the day’s work Her love it seems has something to do with need: need for a hand on her fur need for a hand pouring water into her glass dumping food into her bowl need for a hand to open a door a window so she can run outside and bring the outside in The insect is on the run and le animal’s fur goes static She races after it bats it takes it in her mouth again and again she brings it to you drops it at your feet again your blood is paralysis your breath a numbing agent you have forgotten how to speak you grunt the insect again runs away you understand this game will go on all night An hour later your fears are realized the insect again le animal’s mouth you again thinking of the scale of love the scale of fear


You are in the shower You turn your eyes away from your body & watch as they land on a large many-legged unidentifiable object splayed in a high corner on the wall For more seconds than you care to share you imagine a palmetto bug baiting contraption You can see yourself untrapping them releasing them to the world of the bathroom They will crawl up the wall away from you scramble to be the first to get to the many-legged object that has made itself comfortable on its high perch You see the palmetto bug & you see the other terror You shiver and turn your eyes back to your body You move the shower curtain and peek out Le animal is not waiting for you You have doubts about her ability to leap twelve feet to catch the many-legged unidentifiable object You imagine a contraption akin to cat stilts and laugh until your fear hurts


The many-legged terror is on the loose Le animal cannot catch its scent & in your dread of seeing the thing appear suddenly on a necessary object—toilet sink counter floor edge of tub—you forget to misplace fear Fear—its heady obnoxious odor—has permeated the interior and potentially thrown le animal permanently off track You believe her to be relentless in her quest for the many-legged terror You have to believe in her love of the hunt You have crowned her Athena You are her counsel


You wait for the many-legged terror to make a fatal mistake Le animal waits for you to pull out the laser pointer You two have debated the finer points of hunt and attack Le animal has ceased and desisted to sniff out the terror You have planted the terror in your mind You each look at the windows and doors You smell the judgment of the neighbors who would tell you to close yourselves in & lock the terrors out You understand the terrors will always a find a way to enter—through an unaligned door a swollen window frame a mail slot a yawn You can not hide The terror hides You are exposed and close the windows and lock the doors Lock the terror inside Le animal turns her nose to the air You turn your alarm to shiver


There are many other creatures in the air—flies    mosquitoes—keeping the hidden many-legged terror warm   fed You listen to the train crying in the night Le animal relieves herself She has turned to comfort You have given in to a resignation at the border of erratic and calm Le animal’s tongue clearing debris from her fur    the musician’s haunting piano tune below the floorboards    the wrecking rain and wind drumming the windows    Fugue Before the Hunt


Le animal pounces on you waking you from a forgetful slumber When you ask about the many-legged terror she looks away You look away too ashamed suddenly of your dependence on this four legged beast to hunt attack and torture an eight-legged smaller beast with pedipalps as mouth You stare at the ceiling fan wondering where it is when you will meet it again The inevitability of morning has come to you on four legs with no swallowed legs to reassure you


You show le animal the two punctures on your toe You need to explain the potentially toxic relationships between humans and arthropods The toe is swollen and sharp hot pains shoot through your foot The toe may need to be removed Le animal shakes her head and nudges you for a petting You run your hand across her fur and watch the excess hair fall off You begin to ponder excess What is it about the many-legged terror that makes it terrible: Its excess of legs Its ability to seemingly hover midair, held by invisible lines of its own making Its panopticonesque perch Its brazen break-in Its stealthy in/visibility: Yes & No & Yes & No & Yes The swelling moves into the larger foot area & you try to remember what you might have stepped on last night to deserve such a stinging You’d ask the insect expert le animal but she’s belly up staring into the ceiling imagining you hope an end to these terrible days

Metta Sáma

Metta Sáma

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Metta Sáma is author of Nocturne Trio (YesYes Books 2012) and South of Here (New Issues Press 2005 (published under the name Lydia Melvin)). Her poems, fiction, creative nonfiction, and book reviews have been published or are forthcoming in Blackbird, bluestem, Drunken Boat, The Drunken Boat, Esque, hercricle, Jubilat, Kweli, The Owls, Pebble Lake Review, Pyrta, Reverie, Sententia, and Vinyl, among others. Sáma is a visiting assistant professor in the MFA Program at LSU.