Ode to Whiskers
Like trees they grow from roots beneath the skin
and blood and nerves run through their core.
They vibrate and shake to map the air
with their manner of specialized touch.
And they twitch and twitch and get a signal
from the landscape around the face.
A rat will use them to size a hole it might
crawl through to covet crackers in the pantry.
A cat reflects its mood. It wears its game face
when its whiskers are taut, out front.
They balance a cat as though a cane.
But humans lost their whisker system along
the way as part of some reptilian redirect.
A genetic control was thrown
and the tactile radar went adrift
along with the spiny penis. So no more
loving catcalls caught between pain and
ecstasy in the night. But maybe one day
a bearded guy who wants to keep it
fresh will bring the whisker back from
its vestigial state. A drug will be developed
and the switch rewired. Sporting the original
French tickler will be certifiably hip.
We’ll say That boy’s got nerves in his hair.
We’ll see him walking down the street with
his phone, jealous of his new bristling app.
He will smile and jiggle his face,
knowing no longer will he be deprived
of his natural whisker sense.
Listen to Tim read his poem here.
About the Author: Tim Kahl is the author of Possessing Yourself (CW Books 2009), The Century of Travel (CW Books, 2012) and The String of Islands (Dink, 2015). His work has been published in Prairie Schooner, Indiana Review, Ninth Letter, Notre Dame Review, The Journal, Parthenon West Review, and many other journals in the U.S. He appears as Victor Schnickelfritz at the poetry and poetics blog The Great American Pinup and the poetry video blog Linebreak Studios. He is also editor of Bald Trickster Press and Clade Song. He is the vice president and events coordinator of The Sacramento Poetry Center. Visit him here.