shop of horrors

Billy Joe's Roadside Museum
Walt McDonald

We pulled the door closed, a haunted house
of beasts and rodents mounted by amateurs,
a mail-order course in taxidermy. Cobras old and dusty
sagged over us. We ducked under a vine

hung like a cord for a doorbell. Is Tarzan in?
Is Cheetah? But here was nothing we wanted
to touch, even without signs. Long and low
like a bunkhouse, that museum hardly had lights enough

for a closet. Under dead eyes of lions,
the fangs of tigers, we shuffled single file,
gullible game for the owner. One stuffed gorilla
bared his Styrofoam teeth, his fuzzy arms

propped up by wires. Dried paint like blood
stuck to his lips, his leather chest. What fools,
a thousand miles to go and here we were
in catacombs of buffalos and vipers,

a jumble of snakes and wild cats, the dust-gray heads
of bucks and javelinas. Buzzards hunched above
on our way out. I wanted those birds to turn,
their wattles to wobble, to clack their beaks

and wink. Even rattlesnakes ignored us
at the door, mounted on a table of sand,
only their fangs and rattles real,
black plastic for their eyes.

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