Scabrous to scurrilous, sure to offend,
Senses assaulted and stench without end,
Here on the ash-heap of history, I
Will most be remembered as that Awful Guy.
I don’t mean to be rude, but it’s hard not to recoil at the unknown. What?! No shoulder gills? How can you use your nose for smelling things if you’re busy using it to breathe at the same time? No horns? Oh, dear, where are your radar sensing structures housed? And my goodness, those awful, blind blue and brown orbs where your eyes should be! How in the world do you manage without proper infrared vision, you poor thing? What’s with having ears awkwardly positioned, so low and flat against the head that they can’t rotate and bend to follow every sound?
I realize that we’re not all made the same, but sometimes it shocks me that anyone so odd looking and freakishly ill-equipped as all you other sad creatures out there can survive at all. I don’t hate you because you’re pitiful, but still I can’t help being sad at your obvious plight. It’s difficult at times not to seem patronizing, disgusted and repulsed that you’re not all as sensibly made and beautiful in your correctness as I am. Please forgive my involuntary condescension. It’s not your fault that you weren’t born or trained to be as nearly perfect as me.
No matter how impressive and terrifying the monster, there’s always something that can defeat it. Most monsters have their own monsters, when it comes right down to it. Their tormentors may be superior powers, but in truth, it may well be the simplest and smallest, most innocuous detail that thwarts the fiercest monster.
It might even be me.
Kept at Bay
Greedy little nightmare,
You stole from me an hour
Of sleep that should have been repose
With twisted, dark and sour
Delirium and horror-shows
Of ghosts and ghouls and glee-
Filled monster tales and dragon-scales—
O! Set this captive free!
For if you deign to torture me
Incessant, sleepless grind,
I’ll out you in a rotten verse
And you will lose your mind.
I think I had a deer-in-the-headlights moment on a recent morning. When I went to wash my hands and looked up into the mirror, a bizarre monster was looking back at me and I froze. I stared uncomprehendingly, quite unable to make sense of the world for a moment, what glared back at me from the looking-glass was a creature with the strangest pair of burgundy wine-colored eyes I’d ever seen.A quick assessment–possibly including a bit of arm-waving to see if the monster waved back at me in perfect sync or, rather, in reply to my advances–convinced me that I was looking at myself after all. An inexplicably unrecognizable self, but mine all the same.
I wasn’t in pain. There was no horrible itching, no creepy gunk running down my face. None of my limbs seemed to have detached themselves from my torso. I could feel no symptoms of anything untoward at all, and had awakened feeling perfectly dandy, with no sense of impending doom whatsoever.
As it transpired, the red-eyed madness was evidently a friendly reminder that I’d slept the night on a hotel pillow unlike mine. Perhaps the pillow’s stuffing or even, I suppose, the detergent with which the bed linens were laundered, bestowed upon my freakish new beauty by the agency of an allergic spasm of hyper-chromatic hilarity.
The really surprising thing about this whole episode is the series of alarms it set off in recognition that I often, well, don’t recognize the perfectly obvious in front of me until its moment has already passed. Ah yes, those many times when I’ve sat talking with a person and not realized until later just whose presence I’d taken for granted–whether an acquaintance I’d not recognized thanks to my prosopagnosia, a celebrity I’d not recognized by failing to connect name or title or other clues, or any other person I’d not fully appreciated in the moment. It’s a pity we are sometimes so blind to who or what is right in front of us that we don’t recognize how fantastic our lives really are, and how much richer for the company we keep.
If I need further periodic reminders, I hope the great people who are around me will kindly give me the needed nudge. So very much kinder and cheerier a nudge than, say, the appearance of an alien in the mirror. And lest I have failed to make it clear to you, this is also my time to say Thank You and express my appreciation to all of you good people who do give me the time of day, regardless of my thick-headedness or my bleary red eyes.
Isn’t it charming, cute and quaint
That a butterfly made up in bright orange paint
Can masquerade thus as a garden saint
And be seen as a ray of the dancing sun
And a light, fleeting dash of enticing fun,
When its finely-veined system in truth is run
On a fuel of venom cold with spite—
It would far rather sink a great poisonous bite
In your pulsing carotid some murderous night—
How pretty, how dainty, how full of cheer
The butterfly’s presence makes it here,
At least behind all that orange veneer
A scurrilous, scandalous sinner
Invited him one night for dinner;
He learned that her wish
Was, he’d be the main dish,
Though before he knew that,
He was in her.
The Ballad of Professor Montague
Professor Montague, a moth (specifically, Cecropia),
was glamorously smooth and frothy, ruling that Utopia,
his professorship at Flares, where tender butterflies and moths,
with innocent and awestruck stares, had visions wild as Visigoths,
fixed on him, rapt, their compound eyes, absorbing, drinking deeply
(through curled probosces and their brains) this wisdom daily, weekly–
they soaked it up–he’d flit about, and with his brilliance all were thrilled,
until one day he was attracted to the classroom lamp . . . and killed.