Night in the Rainforest

Kathleen S. Burgess

Night in the Rainforest

… the Final Identity has no Final Identity but is—as the swoop cry of some nameless Frogbird—whoopsing it up under a dark leaf in the jungle. …
            —Allen Ginsberg, Ayahuasca III in Pucallpa: June 11, 1960

In a swampy backwash, green anacondas lie
submerged,camouflaged by reflections.
The equatorial sunset clicks a coppery lid.

This creaks blackly open to thunder, heat lightning,
prowl of jaguars, flights of owls and vampire bats.
Beneath the palm-thatched roof of the hut,

an exotic firefly flashes as it spirals, navigates
down from the second story. Helicopter-slow,
it lights in red ellipses that disappear on the beaten

earth floor of the kitchen. Two radioactive-green
spots glow atop the body, like landing lights
on a runway. In the cupboard lurks something else,

an insect, like a cockroach but large as a hand.
I hear a Goliath bird-eating tarantula gallop away.
Ted waves a flashlight over a column of army ants.

We’re forewarned that they forage aggressively,
swarm anyone unaware. We leap for the steps, retreat upstairs
to write though mosquitoes keen for blood.

Something drives us together. It seems, impossibly,
a flying frog. This morning the thing croaked
mournfully in the peak of the hut, too high, too dark

to distinguish. It dives. We run for the bed, scramble
under mosquito net. Scan the air. From every direction,
the thing flies and scratches. We thrash at the unknown.

Lost in a world of fantastic tales, we learn by our hearts’
wild throbbing we’re powerless to prevent each attack.
Half demon, half reptilian bat, it toys with us. Lands

beside me, repulsive, sharp, and moist. It screeches when
my hand flails out, knocks it off the edge, with the flashlight
rolling out of reach, the beam dim as the fanged, flying moon.


Kathleen S. Burgess is a senior editor at Pudding Magazine: The Journal of Applied Poetry. Her 2018 book What Burden Do Those Trains Bear Away (Bottom Dog Press) is a memoir in poems of a year hitchhiking to South America. She is also the author of Gardening with Wallace Stevens (Moria Books), Shaping What Was Left (Pudding House), and editor of Reeds and Rushes—Pitch, Buzz, and Hum (Pudding House). The Wonder Cupboard is forthcoming from NightBallet Press, 2019. She’s been a fan of speculative fiction stories and movies since she was old enough to enjoy the frisson of fear at promises and warnings for our future, as projected by scientists, writers, movie makers, and her imagination.

Editor’s Notes: Illustration is Demon Png Clipart, rainforest, and netting.

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