The Parasite

The Parasite
Mack W. Mani

At 15,
the whole world seemed
a trailer park
and my hometown,
double wide and cold as hell.

Freedom to me then:
a gassed up Datsun 180,
two thin joints and
my homemade cassettes,
Fire Walk With Me on VHS.

I still had the parasite back then,
in the fall of 1993,
all of the girls in my school
got contracted.

Who you got it from,
who you gave it to
was a big deal:
Samantha Keely
had gotten it
from Mike Mitchell
which was good,
but not great.

My best friend Beth Hensley
was one of the last to get it
but from the new boy Connor
and I was so jealous
and afraid
because I couldn’t tell her
or anyone
that I had been infected
longer than everyone.

Since I was a girl,
taken for joyrides
by my mother’s friends,
lurid neon cowboys,
would be John Waynes,
and Jesus in jeans;
men who smelled of
cigarette smoke
and old Bible leather,
dime store detergent
and working man’s sweat.

And after,
as I lay unsticking myself
from the bare backseats
of their Detroit studs,
I could feel the worm
replicating inside me,
growing, changing, feeding
and somehow I convinced myself
that this was love.

And at 30,
when finally I had
the thing removed,
it looked like some
deep sea creature,
tentacles writhing in exposure,
bulbous head pulsing,
slitted mouth agape
and smacking hungry.

David Cronenberg Presents
           My Body

My wife held my hand
through the whole procedure,
but could not bring herself
to look the creature in its eyes.

I still have it somewhere
safely under lock and key,
interred in glass.

The doctors told me
it was dead,
but late at night
when I am home alone,
I sometimes tap the glass to see
the slight and fragile twitching
of one of the thing’s
many pale unseeing eyes.

Mack W. Mani is a Forward Prize nominated poet and author. His work has appeared in various places including Neon, NewMyths, and The Pedestal Magazine. He currently lives in Portland, OR.