Monday, December 05, 2011



We knew something was out there in the lake, past the docks, and it would not do to turn your back as twilight approached because one lash of a tail might send you plunging, and coils could squeeze tight as the mirror of the world closed overhead. Even on a bright day, you might believe you’d miscounted a row of ducks, or observe a sudden swell and perhaps query aloud, Too big for a fish, and I don’t recall seeing a boat?  Down, down, under algae and reeds an entity wound side to side, eel-like, but with jagged teeth that could shred a fish or slice a bite out of a canoe just like it was a cantaloupe! Police divers might see an accretion of junk and think nothing amiss, might pass over the curved shape nestled inside a sunken boat hull or bulge beneath a ripped canvass of a sail.  Origin stories proliferated of a tropical pet flushed down a pipe, subsisting in sewers and eventually migrating to the lake, somehow surviving in warmer reaches as the winter ice knit together above its head. And this unwillingly trapped being, denied its childhood under the sun, forsaken, left to subsist on garbage and never encountering another of its kind, grew into a monster, thumping its frozen casement angrily and vowing revenge, come spring, upon any living creature unlucky enough to swim by.       


Above the Plaza was the giant head of a bull. When department stores filled and registers got humming, it registered approval by blowing smoke out its nose. And that particular mall was a confusing one to navigate, but at the door you could rent a fishing reel of twine to unspool as you made your way through the concourse. Of course, this was no help sometimes, on a busy weekend, if the thread became confounded with other shoppers’. You could always expect to see a group of old men sitting around on benches in the atrium arguing over a huge string-ball that grew larger and larger while they talked. Woe to those caught wandering past closing time, because back then there weren’t warnings over the intercom like today’s, just banks of lights snapping off and shopkeepers rolling their gates shut to guard against marauders and security hounds. They say mall dogs are the most vicious, and I’d have to agree: can you imagine, caged up all day, hearing appalling tunes designed to lure patrons to founder on sales racks, literally thousands of intruders flaunting their presence just off-camera, seniors and wailing babies and good-for-nothing teens—why, it’d be enough to drive a canine insane! And so we heard tales of people lost and never heard from again, and you can bet those hounds cleaned their plates.


Always we were warned about him, that shadowy figure reputed to live by the parkway in the bird sanctuary, a wild man who defended his territory from teens parking too late by grimacing outside windshields and giving everyone a fright.  He ate out of trash cans, they all said, which might have explained the look of sour bitterness on his face, though by nature he was a misanthrope and half-hater of himself.  That other part, according to speculation, might have been orangutan, because his face was covered with gold hair and two lower teeth broke through his lip when he tried to speak. Whether words were possible was an open question, since it was more of a sad lowing that you might hear when the Old Moon and hearts grew full, carrying off the lake surface, always shining so brightly below, like a silver paten!  A howl of despair, but also one of lonely freedom, which was what adults half-admired when they drove past and recalled stories they had once heard as children.  For here was a being who had simplified life—career, home, family, society—by pushing it all away.  

 M.V. Montgomery 2011

M. V. Montgomery is an Atlanta professor and author of the poetry collections Joshu Holds a Press Conference and Strange Conveyances. His most recent work includes a free e-book, Circle,Triangle, Square (NAP Publishing) and a work-in-progress titled What We Did With Old Moons, a prose poem cycle based on myth. 

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