Write a poem about a phobia,
the prompt commanded,
which seemed more appealing to me
than to have to use all five of my goddamn senses
to describe the summer evenings of my childhood.
I can’t write a whole poem about vomit,
which is probably my strongest phobia.
Who would want to read it?
I suppose I could describe my terror
at the sight of a small gray mouse
darting unexpectedly across the back of my stove.
It seemed so much larger in my mind
than it did when we had caught it
in the live-catch trap.
(The only thing more terrifying in my mind
than knowing a live mouse is dancing across my food
is seeing a dead mouse on my kitchen floor,
so live-catch traps it is.)
I freed the creature in a field,
while holding a black leash
attached to an excited and confused Giza,
whom I had brought with me for protection and emotional support,
I screamed as I shook the mouse out of the black plastic trap,
and it scurried away.
I also have a horror of cassowaries.
This would be a rational fear if I lived in Australia,
less so in Schaumburg, Illinois.
When I was a young child with an outsized reading ability,
my mother bought me several volumes of the Charlie Brown ‘Cyclopedia.
Oddly, this children’s book mentioned that a cassowary
had the power to kill a man with a single kick.
This sounded me to me then as a terrible way to die,
and now, it’s not what I personally would choose
as a method of execution.
When I see this wild dinosaur bird in zoos
with its round black body,
bright blue neck and angry red wattle, warning your doom,
the wedge-shaped casque on the top of its skull,
which I’m sure it uses to ram its head square into your chest,
and those horrible man-killing claws on its feet,
I shudder a little,
respecting its power and ruthlessness.
They’re kind of the same thing as ostriches and emus,
if you think about it,
and an ostrich or an emu could certainly fuck you up,
but they don’t inspire the same primal fear
as the horrible cassowary,
God’s avian assassin.