Mycology — Switchback’s 2018 Contest Winner


Wall relief of Wadjet, temple of Edfu, Egypt

Photo Credit: Rémih derivative work: JMCC1 [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

the man creeping behind my tongue is an angry man
he sounds like me, rusted, like a busted garden gate that aches to be used, like me,
older, a Tony grown into Anthony, a Scooter grown into Scott, a regret grown into grief
I hide him in memories, like

that blind date in Fall Creek,
a wannabe punk who loved Paramount Pictures,
wore black and white fishnets, gripped
the back of my neck and reeled me into her painted face
to eat me like a pie contest, a messy kiss
so hard and a tongue so eager it vined through the back of my neck,
waved to the stoned goths on the couch watching us, watching
Cat in Breakfast at Tiffany’s watching us

the man creeping behind my tongue intercepts words as they are thrown, tosses
them down to gastric juices and Tebows a victory stance to the language rising
from hydrochloric acid, like a skeleton in the pit of a William Castle film,
words on an invisible wire, like confidence, battered, worthy, stripped
of meat and muscle and shaken for effect by someone out of shot

she made me her instrument,
kept one Horus eye open and her Wite-Out nails
latched onto my thigh, a tense moment of change
between lips, she, Wadjet,
the papyrus-colored one sucking ink from idea,
a cobra composing in an orifice, undulating, hypnotizing
and lulling me to do what is asked under pungi mantra

the woman creeping behind my tongue punches my uvula
when I unbox my childhood, makes laboring sounds with repetitive jabs,
a prize fighter practicing revision with one fist tucked behind her pregnant belly
I hide her in extended metaphors, like

her tongue writhed in my throat
and licked bitterness from my scruff
waved goodbye to the goths
and dove, determined, to my guts,
lapped up all vocabulary, slurped
at sinking etymologies, and grew
and grew and grew, cordyceps unilateralis
on an ant, changing identity, leaving important
organs to sustain and feed the spore

the tongue hardens to stalk and bursts alphabets over my fruiting body

Eric Machan HowdEric Machan Howd (Ithaca, NY) is a professor at Ithaca College where he teaches professional and technical writing. He is also an MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry) candidate at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Eric’s poems have appeared in “Nimrod,” “River City,” “The Healing Muse,” and “Yankee Magazine.” He writes, lives, and loves in the Fingerlakes region of central New York with his glorious spouse, Katharyn Howd Machan, and their two cats Footnote and Byron.

Photo Credit: Jim Stafford