Trilobite is an arthropodologist's delight:
many bizarre creatures; no two alike.

five poems

Brenda Cárdenas

Beaver Queen

(for Ann Kingsbury)

Brave beaver queen lost her virginity

while fishing for fresh trees

one twilight. The pond with its lily pad

pillows made the perfect divan,

but when her boyfriend and his stamen

lunged at her too hungrily, she slapped

him with her thick, flat tail and bared

her beaver teeth. Slow down, Rocketship.

No wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am

in this neck of the woods. I wanna see you

drool. She lay among the buttercups,

sweetspire’s downy goose necks tickling her

in all the right places when he finally

got it. Must have learned something

from the caterpillars inching along

the delphinium. He stroked her beaver

fur with abandon, crisscrossed her beaver

belly with his beaver tongue and Hot Damn!

Her body’s music became tonic they pulled

up like crisp summer sheets as the frogs

sang the world green and they drifted

off to sleep in the old stone boat.

Come Another Yuletide

A residual wiggle from my youth

did a wheelie down the boulevard

in a drag race toward surrender.

I’ve rubbed holes in my ruby slippers,

but refuse to pin a gaudy gold sleigh

and reindeer to my chest. Curse

silver tinsel curls bouncing down

my cheek. It’s all fake snow anyway,

but my matrilineal chops can be

as sweet as powdered sugar

or vindictive as weaponized

incompetence, that soft prick.

Yes, I can be a crab apple when we

have 14 tiny spruce, forsythia, and elm

to plant a few days before the end

of November, and I’m in my slip-ons

with a wheelbarrow of water

and a five-pound bag of mulch,

finding a way to help them root

and hibernate for winter, toes

frozen—theirs and mine—while you

watch and will never understand

my razor tongue. In the fake forest

lives an orange fox almost as large

as the deer standing perpetually

in the same position and the village’s

miniature people who never

whistle, but drop to their knees

in mounds of cotton and pray for Atlas

to help them carry the world.

Fire Ants and Frankenpigs

On the day of our rapture, stink bugs

rain from pregnant clouds and parakeets

scream, “Apocalypse! Apocalypse!”

Homer’s progeny vote for Jesus who shaves

his beard, does 33 pushups, and proclaims

the “Like a good neighbor” jingle sublime

before burying his head in the sand.

When armies run out of bullets, men

load their guns with fire ants who march

undeterred to the enemy’s toes, begin

their ascent up his pant legs. He dances

and crackles like a Fourth of July sparkler

quick to expire. Old soldiers wax nostalgic

about how glorious wars used to be.

Acid rain pearls in dawn’s distant light.

Sappho’s bluish waves have lapped

away. To which side of this wobbly world?

While we stand still in candlelit vigils,

scientists bring a frankenpig back to life.

Breathe, little pig yolk. Some pray your gut-

brain will dream a planet of starry angels

and virgin births. But I will hold you hostage

among the does hiding their embryos

in slender crags of ancient caves.

Groundhog Day

Can we kill the grubby groundhog

who never misses his winter shadow

long as a sloth’s lazy arm? How we long

to become supine hammocks swinging

in rainforests. What we wouldn’t give

for one bead of sweat when the wind-

chill stings 23 below. Bombastic icicles,

stiff as dicks, break their necks

when we enter or exit—artifacts

of a zone that will live in our lore

as uninhabitable by the cryptid humans

who tried to bend it to their will,

who caught snowflakes like pearls

on their clammy tongues just to feel

something melt, ate intestines stewed

in chili pepper, wrapped their numb

limbs in pelts and talked to themselves

because they couldn’t budge

from the fireplace where they puffed

on pipes, slept with cocked pistols,

and only their ire kept the wind

that shook bones like rattles at bay.

See that hulking shadow in the corner?

It’s the ghost of the groundhog

simmering on the stove.

Shifty Kin

Our aspiration is witchery and grist

turning us into anonymous animals

slick with the residue of dark pools—

muskrat, otter, mink

or the desert’s shifty kin—

armadillo, sidewinder, meerkat

One day I choose bobcat, not knowing

how large I will become as I hover

on hemlock branches waiting for prey.

The next month, a jackalope with antelope

rack. My sham is to make you think

I’m a slick mirage guarding the prairie

of your secrets, but I’ve been beside

you all along with my mute throat,

my lock and abandoned key.

You need a hard shell to keep safe

when others spit their reckless phlegm

in your face, when the anti-sunrise

bears down like a drone flying low,

pesticides in tow. Ok armadillo,

you are shielded. How about the right

to spell backwards, to spew

double negatives like irresistible

ornaments? To gather all the letters

in a cup and toss them out

on the table like an omen?

You got it laughing crow. Now cackle.