Lizard Man (Marvin Shackelford)

            against Alex Jones

Suppose they crawled from the sea and learned to breathe
and found the charm of walking upright,
turned their hearts heavenward but instead of God
found only space, empty majesty.
Suppose they took their stone tools of war
straight into the sun and found themselves
natural astronauts and explorers.
Perhaps they on boats built of rotting cane
and mud and stone and soldered by swamp gas
and spells necessitating human sacrifice
found the means to chase the stars painted
across the glass spheres of our closed eyes.
Maybe they learned the codes of speech and love.
Suppose they made commerce of our young,
filled the shadows of church and state
and even the blood holding us true
through eons of dust and living breath
and holy war and apocalypse,
the vast migration of our every ancestor
into this current cosmos of cells.
Suppose they want to snap this blessed helix,
and suppose you already know this,
suppose it rises in your throat, vital.
But suppose too—and I don’t know
how much I can say here—but imagine
whatever scaled and slithering monster
clawing its way to eternal daylight
crossed no stars or vacuums bright with terror
except the void between our hearts’ chambers
where all love pumps full and free of air again.
Suppose we bear their marshes inside us.
Suppose they hatch from our every thought.
Just imagine if you can the great serpent
rising white and scorched from our deepest caves,
first to bruise our heel and war with us,
is simple and inexplicable
as a name or dream or soul, and nothing
we try to tear it loose from our throats
will separate us in the least.


Marvin Shackelford is the author of a collection of poems, Endless Building, and a couple volumes of stories and flash fiction forthcoming from Alternating Current and Red Bird Chapbooks. His works has appeared in The Kenyon ReviewWest BranchPermafrost and elsewhere. He resides in Southern Middle Tennessee, earning a living in agriculture.


image: Lindsay Hargrave