This selection, chosen by guest editor Alyse Bensel, is from Iguana Iguana by Caylin Capra-Thomas, released by Deep Vellum in 2022.
Things crawl over me here, no-see-ums and biting ants. They make me feel hospitable, like at last I am a good host. Stop itching, I tell myself, we have guests. What is a guest if not something that takes a little bit of your life? In the cemetery where I practice pedaling, sailing circles around the dead, iguanas sun bake and scurry the white slabs, the green length of them defiant drapery in death’s pale parlor. I’m told they’re invasive— even their taxonomy, iguana iguana, it’s too much, too many iguanas, the William Carlos Williams of reptiles, or the man my mother loved after my father, Jim James, who chugged caffeine-free Diet Pepsi and made his pecs dance, recited the three words of Italian he learned from Sylvester Stallone (Ti amo and andiamo). He once argued with me over my stubborn belief that ten thousand was the same thing as one million. I was never good with numbers. He was never good with kids. He built things and made my mother laugh. Maybe too much. Maybe for the wrong reasons. During cold snaps, the iguanas freeze and fall like stoned fruit from the trees, wake only once their core has warmed. I won’t be here to see it—it’s the off- season now, August, everything dank and hot- -blooded, which is what I think my mother liked about Jim: something raw about him, the pink scars where his own mother’s boyfriend stubbed out cigarettes on his arms or how he called Here kitty kitty nightly into the dark after the cat ran away. She was a stray to begin with—we lured her into our lives with milk, named her Fitty Fat the Kitty Kat, let her eat and fuck and kill as much as she wanted, litters of kittens and kibble and dead birds piling up. What else is there to say but everything we’ve said before, over and again? Iguana iguana. Italian Stallion. Here, kitty kitty. Andiamo, Jim James. What is a child if not something that takes a little bit of your life? He wasn’t a bad man. He made my mother laugh.
Caylin Capra-Thomas is the author of Iguana Iguana (Deep Vellum), as well as the chapbook Inside My Electric City (YesYes Books), and her poems and nonfiction have appeared in venues like Pleiades, Copper Nickel, New England Review, 32 Poems, Mississippi Review, and elsewhere. The recipient of fellowships and residencies from the Vermont Studio Center, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and the Studios of Key West, she was the 2018-2020 poet-in-residence at Idyllwild Arts Academy. She lives in Columbia, Missouri, where she studies nonfiction, poetry, and ecocriticism in Mizzou’s PhD program, but she calls New England home.
Alyse Bensel is the author of Rare Wondrous Things: A Poetic Biography of Maria Sibylla Merian (Green Writers Press, 2020) and three chapbooks. Her poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review, Cream City Review, South Dakota Review, and West Branch. She serves as Poetry Editor for Cherry Tree and teaches at Brevard College, where she directs the Looking Glass Rock Writers’ Conference.