Cuddly Monsters

This is kudzu. It looks like this when it first begins to creep along the ground. This is before it grabs a tree and it’s vines clutch and climb and twist and turn until the tree becomes a bulging green monster that looks like the Incredible Hulk about to pounce on you…

This is kudzu gone wild. It has turned the roadsides into a kudzu jungle. I call it the “Southern Smothler”. It seems to choke out the rest of the green lush life. It does look pretty, but it also makes one wonder what crawls beneath all that stuff. I mentioned to Dirt Man that I’d be afraid to try to hike through the kudzu monsters. 

 Dirt Man: “Cuddly Monsters? Where?”

Me: “Underneath all that stuff.”

Dirt Man: “Are you referring to chiggers?”

Me: “No, I’m talking about snakes and spiders and other stuff that bite! Why would I want to cuddle with any of those things?”

Kudzu by James Dickey

Japan invades. Far Eastern vines
Run from the clay banks they are

Supposed to keep from eroding.
Up telephone poles,
Which rear, half out of leafage
As though they would shriek,
Like things smothered by their own
Green, mindless, unkillable ghosts.
In Georgia, the legend says
That you must close your windows

At night to keep it out of the house.
The glass is tinged with green, even so,

As the tendrils crawl over the fields.
The night the kudzu has
Your pasture, you sleep like the dead.
Silence has grown Oriental
And you cannot step upon ground:
Your leg plunges somewhere
It should not, it never should be,
Disappears, and waits to be struck

Anywhere between sole and kneecap:
For when the kudzu comes,

The snakes do, and weave themselves
Among its lengthening vines,
Their spade heads resting on leaves,
Growing also, in earthly power
And the huge circumstance of concealment.
One by one the cows stumble in,
Drooling a hot green froth,
And die, seeing the wood of their stalls

Strain to break into leaf.
In your closed house, with the vine

Tapping your window like lightning,
You remember what tactics to use.
In the wrong yellow fog-light of dawn
You herd them in, the hogs,
Head down in their hairy fat,
The meaty troops, to the pasture.
The leaves of the kudzu quake
With the serpents’ fear, inside

The meadow ringed with men
Holding sticks, on the country roads.

The hogs disappear in the leaves.
The sound is intense, subhuman,
Nearly human with purposive rage.
There is no terror
Sound from the snakes.
No one can see the desperate, futile
Striking under the leaf heads.
Now and then, the flash of a long

Living vine, a cold belly,
Leaps up, torn apart, then falls

Under the tussling surface.
You have won, and wait for frost,
When, at the merest touch
Of cold, the kudzu turns
Black, withers inward and dies,
Leaving a mass of brown strings
Like the wires of a gigantic switchboard.
You open your windows,

With the lightning restored to the sky
And no leaves rising to bury

You alive inside your frail house,
And you think, in the opened cold,
Of the surface of things and its terrors,
And of the mistaken, mortal
Arrogance of the snakes
As the vines, growing insanely, sent
Great powers into their bodies
And the freedom to strike without warning:

From them, though they killed
Your cattle, such energy also flowed

To you from the knee-high meadow
(It was as though you had
A green sword twined among
The veins of your growing right arm–
Such strength as you would not believe
If you stood alone in a proper
Shaved field among your safe cows–):
Came in through your closed

Leafy windows and almighty sleep
And prospered, till rooted out.

35 thoughts on “Cuddly Monsters

  1. Sometimes, in an attempt to control one problem, man introduces an even larger problem. Sometimes, good intentions produce terrible results. For you, the kudzu. For us, the midges they brought in to control the mosquitoes. Which they don’t seem to do. But they do produce an interesting thick green coating on the front of your vehicle if you drive by the lake at the wrong time of day, effectively obscuring your view through the windshield.

  2. “it’s vines clutch and climb and twist and turn until the tree becomes a bulging green monster that looks like the Incredible Hulk about to pounce on you…”

    HA! Love your visual analogy on that, Suzi!

    I learn the most interesting things about nature through reading your posts because I had no idea what kudzu even was until I read this.

    But, you’re right….it DOES sound creepy!

    Enjoyed the poem!

    Have an awesome day, my friend…..X

  3. I have a trumpet vine that has gotten into a lemon tree and is choking all the lemons right off the tree. The lemon tree will die and then these stupid evil vines will look for something else to kill. I think we have 40 pound rats in there too. Pretty flowers though.

  4. There’s a utility pole out in Chesapeake that reminds me of Incredible Hulk. I would like to get a picture of it, but there’s too much traffic in the vicinity. I wonder if that is what has overtaken it.

  5. It looks pretty, but I don’t think I’d go hiking through the kudzu, either. I always walk a bit faster when we’re hiking and I hear something rustling around in the plants. I don’t stick around to find out what it is.

  6. I think here in Georgia they have taken to eating it too. I don’t think you could eat it as fast as it grows. I think if road didn’t get used for a couple of days it would grow straight across it! Also known as “mile a minute” as in how fast it grows!

  7. I have some neat shots that I took of kudzu while driving through Georgia years ago. they look like landscapes from a sci-fi movie. Here we have a vine called Bind Weed that has a beautiful flower as it tackles and smothers the trees. I call it the Borg Vine!

      • Thanks, Sandra for looking this up and sharing. It is very pretty. It appears to be the same thing as what I’ve always called morning glory. I used to go with my babysitter to the garden early in the morning while the dew was dripping from them…the vines would be tangled around the pole beans. A pretty sight, but probably frustrating to the grower.

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