To an Alligator Farm I Saw Advertised on the Highway by Ashley Kemker

I don’t know if you’ll understand why I’m so bothered,  it’s just that I take  great issue with your billboard on the side of Interstate 4: GATOR-RAMA….FLORIDA CITRUS FOR SALE….FEED LIVE BABY GATORS is what the billboard reads in garish yellow. Then worst of it all, a picture of a grinning, speckled baby alligator sitting on its rump with little fat baby legs sticking out from a diaper. It has limpid blue eyes, and tilts its head like a human infant might do. But this is a mockery of the alligator, for the alligator does not have blue eyes, but they’re the gold of coins covered in river silt. An alligator cannot sit on its rump, as he doesn’t have one, and the hard osteoderms that protect his body wouldn’t allow for sitting up. I have never attempted to put one in a diaper. It is true, however, that alligator children are speckled yellow and green so their mother can find them and hide them in the reeds after they’ve emerged from their hot eggs. The children become darker as they grow, their pale stomachs ghostly white when viewed from above, say, in a river or spring, and they go through all the arteries and pooling lakes up and down, to Okefenokee, where they start fires in the fallen beech leaves with their dry scales, drift down to Hell’s Bay to see their old grandfathers, before splitting off from their caiman brothers and wishing them luck in South America. They slept in the warm coastal rivers when most of the water of the world was locked into glaciers, then emerged at the top of the Messinian Age to snatch the young of grazing giants, then an eye blink later, to escape the brain spears of people. Well, that’s just their childhood. When the man alligators get old enough, they sound a low note to call the women, and they do so deep in their billowy throats, sitting together, while the women talk to themselves a ways off in the rippling eel grass, the black slits of their eyes like the darkness that was there before God woke up.

Anyway. How are they to accomplish their secretive lifedrift through the night of time in the soft places on the Earth in a glass and concrete enclosure? Alligators are shy and don’t just smile for any old billboard. The citrus fruit doesn’t enter into it.

Ashley Kemker is a native Floridian and first year MFA student at the University of New Hampshire. She enjoys Norwegian black metal, obscure history, existentially terrifying her classmates, and eating midnight snacks with her cat.