Two Poems about Strange Creatures by Ron Block.

Supernatural rivals at home and in the movies.

“Like the guardian of his most secret self …”
Still from the 1954 movie “Godzilla.”

*

Cryptozoology in South Jersey

One night, our children see a creature move across the wooded edges of a parking lot

where tree leaves part and close again around the vacant form.

Sometimes they even hear this creature on the parkway, wounded and crying,

lost in traffic as our headlight catch it, its eyes shining back from a roadside ditch.

They stare out car windows on long trips looking for its lair, drawing pictures

of its habitat as the woods fill up with platted streets and cul-de-sacs.

*

When the tough old guy who lives next door with his hoppled walk

stops dragging a rake across the autumn leaves,

we mark his passing, who used to run our children off his lawn

like the guardian of his most secret self.

When we hear new neighbors, laughing and eating behind their privacy fence,

their yard lights bleeding through the crosshatched branches,

we see they’ve built a fire in a pit! They are grilling fresh meat!

Trees shiver around them as they dance in a circle!

*

One day our kids give us the hard news.

When people grow old, they go away to live

in parks or gnarled orchards, where it’s said that they

will turn into creatures, their old limbs weighed down

with overripe fruit. We don’t believe them.

But our children persist, explaining how

we’ll first become a shadow in a window,

a parting curtain, a place they say we never leave.

Roots grip the floorboards. Vines crawl down the walls.

The roof opens up. We’ll sleep out in the open.

It takes less than a year for a house to be digested by the woods.

*

Meanwhile, our children continue to warn us:

if you meet such a creature, hiding in a thicket,

beside the withered garden where it’s made its nest,

just put one finger to your lips and whisper, Shhhhhhhh!

as you inch toward it with open hands to show

you do not want to capture it: You only want to believe

it’s true. Every day now, we see whole families

crouching under a bus stop shelter, waiting out the rain

with shopping carts and plastic bags, the young and the old,

with their odd gait, hunched up in their shaggy coats,

living in secret. We see them bending over an iridescent

pool of bilge, while waiting for the light to change.

*

Some nights, we hear them tapping on our windowpane.

Or they come to us like the memories of our children do,

who’ve heard something howling in the empty house next door.

We feel them standing in the dark at the foot of our bed.

*****************************************

The Innocence of Immensity, [or] Why You Still Love Ishirō Honda’s 1954 Godzilla, Despite the Archaic Special FX

I.

Because if the magma boils and skylines fall

and Geiger counters chatter like insects

prophesying the end of humankind,

the Movie Monster still remains

an innocent wickedness,

no more vicious than the child

who knocks a sand castle down

but only in joy and almost never in anger.

II.

Because every Famous Movie Monster must

eventually face the sequels of consequence,

the Son of Movie Monster whom the Monster loves

without a thought of righteous sacrifice.

And even if some Other Movie Monster throws a fit,

breaking through the nets of power grids,

stomping on all the major cities in the world,

the King of the Monsters will stand in its way.

He hugs and wrestles the bully off his feet.

He sits on his chest,

as they count down to nothing.

III.

Because the Famous Movie Monster is so huge

you can almost never come across it

face to face, so this is the Monster

our calculating faces lack.

And even the rubbery mask

that swallows the face of someone you know

doesn’t frighten you as much

as the face of a loved one becoming a mask.

IV.

Because the poorly made illusion

is more honest than the well-told lie,

you can decorate the path to its detection

with intricate marks of make-believe,

with toy model weapons and miniature landscapes,

a tidal wave in a swimming pool,

but most of all with the screaming crowds,

who cannot help but to smile while they run.

******************************

Ron Block is the author of the poetry collection Dismal River (New Rivers, 1990) and a book of short stories, The Dirty Shame Hotel (New Rivers, 1998). A former NEA fellow in fiction, he has published work in Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Southern Review, Iowa Review, and many other magazines and anthologies. These two poems are from a projected collection, AZ: The Hieroglyphs of Silent Movies, an Alphabet Book w/ Index, Conjectures & Questions.