The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Iguana Iguana by Caylin Capra-Thomas

This selection, chosen by guest editor Alyse Bensel, is from Iguana Iguana by Caylin Capra-Thomas, released by Deep Vellum in 2022.

Iguana Iguana

Key West

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 ReviewCream City ReviewSouth 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. 

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