On Reading Kafka’s The Metamorphosis

“When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.”  Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

I drove home from school that evening,

My bag sprawled against the passenger seat,

Rain raking across the windshield,

And I mulled maddeningly over his opening line.


Poor Gregor, I thought,

It’s bad enough to endure

Unsettling dreams,

But to wake up one morning only

To find yourself transformed into a

Monstrous vermin…

What a way to go.


Then, as I drifted into my driveway,

I began to question the very nature of change.

The Metamorphosis, it’s called,

He awakes to find he had become

Something else entire.

Clever, but simply fiction.

No early morning spontaneous change for the rest of us in the

Real world.


I continued to ponder Gregor’s condition

As I walked through my kitchen,

Kissed my wife,

And knelt to the floor of my living room to tussle with my daughters,

To release the hours of giggling from the depths of their little lungs,

To wage another campaign in the infamous Tickle Wars.


I had almost forgotten Kafka’s novella

And Gregor’s plight,

When my oldest had settled her spurs in the floor

To summon her favorite horse for a quick saunter around the house.


As I bent to my hands and knees,

Lowering my back to help her saddle up,

I remembered the magic of change, the invisible truth that

Swells within the blood of fathers,

For all my philosophies and empty questions

Faded into shadow as my fingertips hardened to hooves,

Thick as iron,

And my mouth began to dribble the dabbled joy of stallions.


It was then,

As the cool carpet sprang forth with grass,

And the dusty wind howled through our TV screen to breeze across

My daughter’s laughing chin,

That I believed again in metamorphosis,

And I neighed loud enough to stay the dawn

And send Gregor back to sleep.


A poem for my daughter, Julianna…

In the dream,

You and I were seated,

Side by side,

In the bench seat of a borrowed golf cart,

Touring the cracks and

Sparkling asphalt of our neighborhood

As the sun began to set.



We hummed through the endless turns

And quiet stretches,

Never bothering to circle back

(if that’s what one does in a winding subdivision),

And I laughed as your cheeks tightened

From smiling

And your blonde hair giggled in the wind.


I think we drove for hours,

You and I,

Always whirling around another corner,

Discovering the horizons that lilted with purpled light.


“Daddy,” you sang.

“Yes, Julie?”


I looked over at you

And your bouncing knees,

Clapping hands,

As you climbed the little ladders in your eyes,

Gazing into futures,


Eyelashes swept with spring.


The warm pull of our small motor

Rose into the sky

As you colored the clouds with your singing,

Like fingerpaint against infinite sheets

Of 97¢ construction paper.


“Daddy,” you sang.

“Yes, Julie?”


But then,


Our magic cart

Reached the end of the dream,

Our swirling atmosphere slurred to a stop

Like chalk,

Our wheels sticking on the fermata,

The song sustaining, the pedal dampened,

As my brain began to wake my body.


“Daddy,” you sang.

“Yes, Julie?”


I stumble through the early light

To open your bedroom door.


“I love you,” you sing.

“Good morning, Julie,” I respond,


And we both hear the click of the

Automatic coffee maker,

Heralding the dawn,

As we walk down the morning stairs




A poem on idolatry and repentance…

I stopped in silence on the corner,


As I watched Superman stumble out of the bar,

His eyes emptied of their stars and stuttering

With six glasses of Kryptonite.


He swung his strong arm around the street lamp,

Guffawed a wet vomit on the sidewalk,

Then hacked his spit back through his nose to burn his lungs.


Passers by halted as he threw up again,

His x-ray vision malfunctioning, now

A sterile gaze frantic for the trash bin.


With his left hand, he clumsily groped for his red cape

To wipe the mealy puke from his lips,

And the ladies on the corner softly covered their own mouths in shame.


We noticed his look had lost that Clark Kent cut,

The sharp and dapper face of a hero, and his cheekbones,

Once formed by flight,

Now stubbled lazily as his dingy suit glinted in the moonlight.


But as he bent over the trash can to ready himself for more wrenching,

I knew then what I must do,

What we all must do.


The crowd stared as I wrapped my arms around his neck,

Hugged our feeble god,

And pulled his cape knot tight against his throat

With all my evening strength.


One by one the audience faded away,

Abandoning the suffocating drunkard,

Bearing the startling truth that

We lose the things we idolize

And must choke the things we cherish most.