"The Beast of Bladenboro", from Southern Cryptozoology: A Field Guide to Beasts of the Southern Wild, which was published by Hyacinth Girl Press & a finalist for the Science Fiction Poetry Association's (SFPA) 2016 Elgin Award. This piece also appeared in Hyacinth Girl Press's anthology Free Monsters Poems About Monsters.
Everybody, near ‘bout, that had a gun was carrying it.
—Tater Shaw, The Charlotte News, 1954
A whole town: armed to the teeth,
arming themselves against my teeth.
She-cat of Bladenboro,
I’m here for your dogs,
your sheep, your sons, your blood.
You know who I am, boys.
Make your head flat as a fritter & make your momma cry
as she shouts your name
into the deep, dark woods,
make her wish she was Catholic:
Maybe lighting a candle to St. Anthony
might help, she’d think,
before shaking off her sinful thought
& trusting in God again to bring y’all back safe.
Bless her heart.
She knows good & well what I am & who made me
out in those dirt roads
under that blood moon & she knows
no matter how many candles she wishes she could light
& how many times she calls out your fool name,
You ain’t coming home;
not this time.
Half-dozen of Bladenboro’s finest
came out for me,
tracking a circle three miles wide
around the swamp.
I tailed them the whole way.
Picked off their bait dogs in the shadows
just to show them I could.
Like they showed me.
After a while, nobody felt safe enough out there on the street, with every man packing loaded double barrels
& every trigger finger jumpy at the slightest sound.
Luther Davis dragged a dead bobcat up the City Hall steps
& said it was me.
Never one to be outdone,
Bruce Soles slammed his car into a leopard-spotted cat
on his way to Tabor City; said,
Nope, it’s me what got the Bitch of Bladenboro.
Berry Lewis & Mayor Woodrow Fussell made the publicity rounds
with the photograph they sent out
as the official last word on the matter:
Unnaturally big bobcat, shot & killed by skilled sportsman;
no longer a threat, so put down them guns, boys.
Said I was 90% imagination & 10% truth—
but what I actually am is
90% righteous vengeance & 10% injustice
so boys, go ahead & lay those guns down,
but don’t you dare turn your back on me
& I hope you get used to sleeping
waiting for the Devil
to take her due.