Two Poems

Cave Art

Our daughters,
            left to their own devices,
            will destroy the world around them.

We raised them to feed on the stories we tell,
            and we starved them.

They slap the walls.
They shit where they eat.

Handprints pressed and smeared,
            the hunt, the kill,
                        the animal in red.

Who knows where they find the paint?

We tell them their art is beautiful.
They ask us why.
They tell us they didn't do it.

Whatever the Opposite of Extinction Is

Like most men,
            I pretend to know
                        what I am
                                    talking about
when I mark my territory,
fire a shot through the stern,
declare war as a matter of diplomacy.

Like most men,
            I confuse
            occupation
            with domestic agenda.

But when my wife puts her fork
            on the table and asks me
                        what’s wrong
                        with my mouth,
I can barely swallow.

I know the intention of pitch,
            the risk of inflection,
the point between
            posture and pander,
but my mouth,
            foul from roof to corner,
            has been the staging point
                        for nearly every invasion.

It’s all the talk
            of caves and castles,
                        the meat in my hand,
                        and battlefield commissions

that swell my tongue,
            that leave me to insist
            on talking in the first place.
And like most men,
            I’ve been quick
            to shoot the messenger.

Like most men,
            I’ve evolved
                        just enough.


Ray McManus

Ray McManus is the author of three books of poetry: Punch. (Hub City Press, 2014), Red Dirt Jesus (Marick Press, 2011), Driving through the Country before You Are Born (USC Press, 2007), and he is the co-editor of Found Anew (USC Press 2015). Ray is an associate professor of English at the University of South Carolina Sumter, where he teaches Irish Literature, Southern Literature, and creative writing, and directs the South Carolina Center for Oral Narrative.