Gas Station Gator Head
Gators farmed to buyer’s specific size
(watch band small hides, tight pattern
couch makers want seat covers). People
eat the meat but head: spare part
a biological waste. “We take something
that was garbage” said a man “& turn it
into a highly desirable souvenir”:
replace eyes with marbles (own everything
he’s’ seen). But Florida Fish & Wildlife
Commission forbids taxidermied baby gators
that depict an unnatural position: stands like
a boy or gives a wave to the crowd.
Severed heads, though, are fine. Authentic:
soaked in formaldehyde fresh swamp look
polyurethane coat. In Kissimmee $25 for large
$12 gets cute size to hold & look alive look
alive look alive. Rows & rows of heads – babies
adults – line gas stations gift shops in FL: wild
thing trapped & sold for tourist imagination.
Formal like when mom calls your full
name & you know she means business
or father b/c dad seems too familiar
for a man who left when you were two.
Alligators don’t have vocal chords:
suck air in lungs blow out deep roars
to both attract mates & warn off other males
& that’s why you haven’t answered his calls
can’t tell the difference in this sound.
A charming man will skin you alive
& you’ll smile when you buy the hide
back from him. & by this I mean my father
gave me my first hard drink. I was 15
in Kentucky Elks Lodge his second
wedding. Later he moved back to FL
& I’d pick him up from nearby trailer park
drive him to buy high school liquor.
He should have known better we have
same cold blood. But I can only be so mad
at a man whose nature is to bite. Predators —
adult males included — destroy abt a third
of gator nests. Average clutch: of 38 eggs
24 hatchlings emerge. Only 10 will live
1 yr & of these yearlings 8 become
subadults (4 ft in length). Approximately
5 reach maturity. & I’m no good at math but
at 5 yrs sober I call that at least a fighting chance.
Author Bio: Tyler Gillespie is a pale Floridian. His poems appear in Apogee Journal, Columbia Poetry Review, PANK, Juked, Exposition Review, and Prelude, among other places. He’s currently working on the manuscript Florida Man: Poems.