This time last year
The smoke from the cooking fires of the mutant yuccas a gray haze at my back,
I moved westward, following the pull of the nodules in my skull.
Crossing the dry bed of the Mississippi I encountered
the products of another strange catalysis;
Phosphorescent cacti riding the hard west wind,
a thorny legacy of the mutagen wars.
It was somewhere east of the Rockies,
in the New Desert:
amidst black sand and white heat,
where little that's organic moves,
that I met the source of my summoning.
Your fissured lips writhe voiceless epithets from
A hapless juniper,
Transformed by metaviral infection into your gargantuan reincarnated face.
How well I remember the ruination of its fleshy progenitor;
ravaged by the phage that has recreated it,
here in the blackened desert.
Once you nibbled ripe olives from my lips,
Your smooth body glistening with reflected moonlight.
Now you subsist mainly on aeronautical cacti, luring them in like
some fishy angler,
and inhaling them, spines and all,
the unconsumed residue forming a formidable nasal palisade.
Somehow, motionless, you beckon to me,
your tormented eyes bidding me approach.
It would be so easy;
I know I'd follow the cacti up your permineralized proboscis,
and for a while I'd ease your endless pain.
But I am not ready for what you offer.
I cannot yield what you demand,
become a fading vision in
your xylemic brain.
Then, too, I am afraid
the tumors in my skull might still your chimeric heart
...or is death now your desire?
Tell me, if you can,
Do you remember viral dreams, experienced before you
colonized this coniferous corpus?
Are there others, farther west, that bear the imprint of your
body and your thoughts?
How much is you and how much the phage,
terrifying and uncommunicative?
Why don't you speak?
First published in Xenophilia 4, 1992.