three days on battey street
first our skin ached and throbbed and peeled up
like mildewed wallpaper. next the fever, brain fever,
blood from the ears and then we were off, shuffling
down the street and groaning our best groans,
thumping our chests to restart the wound-down
clocks of our hearts. our eyes turned foggy
and yellow, but a ripping new nose came in,
top-shelf stuff, able to clock a squirrel in the brush
at ten paces, a solitary bat in the no-moon dark,
fragile fresh fawns half a mile away, hunkered
alone on the ferny riverbank, waiting quick-breathed
and thrumming for their mothers. what can we smell?
blood rush, gut meat, the burning stink of neurons
firing down the line. chanel no. 5. birthday cake.
cigarettes by the stage door. diesel fuel. my cousin
drew’s barbecue. summer sweat, skin red
and tender with sunburn, freckles coming up
like cinnamon dust. marinade of zinc oxide. our teeth
are sharper, i think, and slimed with something foul.
our guts are empty. the decay is new, but we meet
our yearning like an old friend, smile unaltered,
handshake familiar. we’ve practiced for this.
we’ve nursed this hunger since infancy, born brimful
of pain and wanting, utterly and fearfully human.
Maria Zoccola is a Southern writer with deep roots in the Mississippi Delta. She has degrees from Emory University and Falmouth University. Her work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in Luna Station Quarterly, The Massachusetts Review, Colorado Review, Spillway, Southern Indiana Review, Lunch Ticket, Gris-Gris, and elsewhere.
Author’s Comments/Backstory: “I scribbled the first line of this poem in my notebook ages ago, and there it sat for months, waiting and waiting to be attached to a poem that would give it meaning, until I hit a particularly exhausting few weeks at work. I felt like the living dead, going in and out of my house on Battey Street at all hours to get things done, but it proved great inspiration for poetry themes. I confess I was so tickled to be writing a poem about zombies that I felt as if I were getting away with something, or maybe playing hooky from real writing, every time I opened my notebook to jot down another few lines. Zombies, y’all! Zombies!”
Editor’s Comments: Image credit: Silhouettes crowd of hungry zombies and old windmill on hill (depositphotos.com). As an aside, apparently there is a tradition in Savannah, GA concerning zombies, e.g., last fall (2019) some of the city’s merchants featured a Zombie Bar Crawl (https://savguides.com/lobby-list-events/zombie-bar-crawl).