The 5-2 Blog Tour: “Kilmahog” by Nigel Bird

All this April, Gerald So, the man behind the 5-2 poetry site, is running a blog tour highlighting past poems. The tour stops here today as I talk about Nigel Bird’s poem “Kilmahog.”

You could have, should have, turned right at the lights
across the hills and over to Kilmahog.
Could have, should have turned into the ditch
when you saw him crossing, legs moving
like the Roadrunner, arms preparing for a fight
Or swerved into the other lane, braked hard and
hoped, let the man behind the headlamps take his chances.
Could have, should have stopped to check
for breathing or a pulse. Maybe called it in.
Could have been five minutes late—
nobody would have minded.

*****

It’s kind of ironic that I was watching the beginning of Children of the Corn when I started this post. The couple in the movie fall down the rabbit hole in a scene similar to the one described above. They’re having an argument when a boy staggers out into the road and right in front of their car. After that, things go horribly awry.

Nigel Bird is not starting a supernatural adventure with this poem. This dark event is the central point of it, rather than a jumping off point. The person in the poem could have, should have turned right and gone into Kilmahog, a hamlet in the Scottish mountains. Kilmahog could have been anywhere isolated – a West Virginia coal mining town, a forgotten rail depot in one of the prairie provinces, an ancient Black Forest village halfway between Munich and Frankfurt. Like the scene I described above, it’s in the middle of nowhere, away from the nearest gas station or police officer.

It’s a random event, driving down the road and having someone appear suddenly in front of you. You hit them. In this day of cell phones and GPS, we like to think we’d stop, we’d summon help, we’d do the right thing. Most people do. But the person in this poem doesn’t. They do what our first instinct, without fail, tells us to do: panic. Cars – our cars – don’t impact people everyday. Most people, in fact, get through their entire lives with nothing worse than a fender bender, if that. But hitting someone? That’s life-changing.

The rational mind says to stop, to check on the person, to get help, to tell the truth if the person dies. Accidents happen. Just ask Stephen King, who, in spite of incredible pain when he was hit by a minivan, seemed amused that he was hit by one of his own characters. He wasn’t happy, but he also accepted that shit happens, sometimes really bad shit.

But we panic. If panic gets the better of us, we drive off, hoping no one will ever know. And of course, we know. And our own selves are the most damning witnesses of all.

The 5-2 Tour: “Some Like It Hot” By Charles Rammelkamp

Marilyn Monroe is nothing less than an icon. Mention Venus, the Roman goddess of love, and hers is one face that flashes in people’s minds even 50 years after her death. Of course, all most of us know about her is the image and maybe the legends behind the image. But what she gave the world was an object of pure, lustful desire.

And that is the image seared into the mind of the speaker in Charles Rammelkamp’s “Some Like It Hot.” He is watching the movie of the same name and is swept up in vivid fantasies where he is entangled in Marilyn’s body in various settings. There is something about Marilyn that draws men, and even a few women, in, makes us want to not only have her, but in some ways, make her feel loved. Granted, she worked at presenting that image. How much of it was Norma Jean Baker vs. the Hollywood sex symbol we know as Marilyn is hard to say. Many have tried to duplicate that rare combination of seduction and beauty, but somehow, it always seems to come up short. Witness how Jayne Mansfield was packaged and presented as “the new Marilyn Monroe,” and yet her daughter, Mariska Hargitay, seems more desirable. Maybe it’s because Mariska Hargitay is not trying to be something that came before, whereas Jayne wasn’t given a choice.

But you can’t duplicate an original. People have tried to replicate The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, copy the James Bond movies and Star Trek. We have knock-off products based on something that caught unexpectedly and writers trying to imitate JK Rowling and James Patterson and even copycat crimes. But you can’t really duplicate something that evolved on its own. Like anything that captures our collective imagination, or in this case, our collective lust, it happens by accident. Marilyn Monroe struck the right pose at the right time and made all the right moves when we noticed her. You can’t duplicate that because no one was looking for it.

Here’s Charles Rammelkamp’s poem from The 5-2:

SOME LIKE IT HOT

Give us this day our daily lust,
in the heart,
as Jesus would have it,
adultery no less a fact for merely thinking it.

I sit in the darkened theater
watching Marilyn Monroe singing
“I’m Through with Love,”
wrapped up in a gangster fantasy
accompanied by an aching erection,
me fucking the daylights out of her,
over and over and over
on the train down from Chicago,
in the Miami Beach hotel,
on Osgood Fielding’s yacht,
a cinematic fantasy so vivid,
I swear I smell those female odors;
my nostrils dilate
like flowers opening to morning light
and my fingertips feel
the viscous female fluids.

More than a fleeting thought, a passing desire,
but then again,
nothing more than thought, either.
The lights come on.
The movie’s over.

The 5-2 Blog Tour continues.  Check out the tour dates and previous posts here.

You can find the poems of the 5-2 here.