Thursday, January 22, 2009


Some Poems with Bugs in Them

"To a Wasp"

You must have chortled
finding that tiny hole
in the kitchen screen.  Right
into my cheese cake batter
you dived,
no chance to swim ashore,
no saving spoon,
the mixer whirring
your legs, wings, stinger,
churning you into such
delicious death.
Never mind the bright April day.
Did you not see
rising out of cumulus clouds
that fist aimed at both of us?

-- Janice Townley Moore

* * *

"Mountain Steppers"

They're shy --
a look, 
a bit of light,
and they run and hide.
Maybe it's the feelers on their heads
can weigh in waves
what you're thinking from far away.
All they want is a lick of water,
a dot of egg,
or a nap on the crumbs under the toaster.
They have shiny black eyes
small as pencil points,
and wings on their backs they never use,
fine as peanut skin.
They look like they're driving when they run,
they go so smoothly.
And they can walk over the sharpest knives
without hurting their feet,
or sit upside down under the neck of a spoon
without falling off.
Stop fast too!
And they talk with their arms and legs like dancers.
Real steppers!

-- Peter Van Toorn

* * *


When you see us swarm -- rustle of

wingbeat, collapsed air -- your mind
tries to make us one, a common

intelligence, a single spirit un-
tethered.  You imagine us merely
searching out the next

vessel, anything

that could contain us, as if the hive
were just another jar.  You try

to hold the ending, this
unspooling, make it either

zero or many, lack

or flurry.  I was born,
you begin, & already each word
makes  you smaller.  Look at this field --

Cosmos.  Lungwort.  Utter each
& break

into a thousand versions of yourself.

You can't tell your stories fast enough.
The answer is not one, but also

not two.

-- Nick Flynn

* * *

"Shellback Tic"

Match-head of groins
nailhead in fur
blank itch of blank
the blood thereof
is the strength thereof is
the jellied life-breath  is O the
sweet incision so the curdy reed
floodeth sun-hot liquor the only ichor the only
which existeth wholly alley-echoing
duple rhythmic feed which same of great yore turned
my back on every other thing the mothering thereof
the seed whereof in need-clotting strings
of plaque I dissolve with reagent drool
that doth stagger swelling's occult throb.
O one tap of splendour turned to me --
blank years grass grip
sun haggard rain
shell to that all.

-- Les Murray

* * *


Dark specks whirr like lint alive in the sunlight.
The sky above the birches is disturbed.

Swarms swarm between pure heaven and treetops:
it's the mayflies' four-hour frenzy before they fall.

Waterward, they lay eggs in their dying
spasms, having then endured it all.

For five long shimmering afternoons that summer
we walked beneath the birchgroves on the shore

and watched the empty light on leaftips pour
and out of nowhere whirled the nebulae,

gadding gilded, all green energy, toward death.
After, the birches stirred, and we beneath

saw south-flying mallards bleak the air.
Green turns husk now.  The world's shrunk to the bone.

Our thin flesh alone
through this long, cold, fruitless season

scampers frantic in wild whirligig motion
while larvae of the mayfly wait

and mallards migrate and the sap runs slow;
ours alone form time strains to purchase

pleasures mayflies find among the birches.

-- Daniel Hoffman

* * *

"Autumn Places"

Autumn, labyrinth of sibilance,
of syllables, I mean, slow pupil,
river of unmeasured waters
and of tall alders where
the last light of the cicadas sings,
still glassy, feathery, and white.

-- Eugenio de Andrade
(translated from the Portuguese by Alexis Levitin)

* * *

"The Moth"

The moth
having left its pupa
in the galaxy of flour grains
and pots of rancid

the moth 
discovers in this 
topical darkness
that it's a kind of butterfly
it can't believe it,
it can't believe it,

it can't believe
that it's a tiny,
flying, relatively
free moth

and it wants to go back,
but there's no way.

Freedom makes
the moth tremble
forever, that is,
twenty-two hours.

-- Miroslave Holub
(translated  from the Czech by David Young & Dana Habova)

* * *

"The Dazed Fly"

My flatted hand descends.
It's too late for him to write his will
or think about estranged wife and friends.  Best
just to lie still and keep hoping he'll be able
to hobble to his notary
when what's happened's
all over.  For now he must
wait till complete awareness returns
and lie, as now, unmoving and quiet
since not yet undazed enough to crawl
to where the smells of mowed grass
are coming from
or the fine points
of fractured light.

He begins a faint buzz, a feeble stir
himself around, once, once more,
like a minuscule coin or turnstile
a hand has twirled into motion
stops all of a sudden
to get his bearings and rest.  Another buzz
this time much louder
marking out a silence
in which to consider possible meanings.

Was it another insect, larger, more powerful?
The wind that
when the luck's with him
usually lifts his wings
and escorts him from hedge to hedge?
Perhaps a Fly-God he'd ignorantly overlooked
or hadn't sufficiently flattered or propitiated?

Or, as now seems most likely,
the ledge he was hopping towards when he felt
the sharp thunder at his back
and everything went suddenly inexplicably black?

-- Irving Layton

* * *

"Song:  Wild Grape"

Tendrils of wild grape,
their pink tips elegant, erotic,
twine along the edges of the porch.

Bees hover in the soapwort, sound 
both balm and irritant, someone
insisting that you sleep.

It will be weeks
before th e hard green clusters
swell and darken, and by then

we're gone.
Always such impatience --
abundant, now, and sad.

--Jan Zwicky

* * *


When the flowered tablecloth, honey, and fruit were mowed from the 
table in one fell swoop, the wasp made an attempt to fly off.  Wrapped in
stifling clouds of net curtain, it went on buzzing for a long time.  Finally it
made it to the window.  Again and again it beat its weakening body against
the cold welded air of the pane.  In the last movement of its wings there
lingered the same faith that the body's unrest can raise a wind carrying us
to longed-for worlds.

You who have stood under a beloved's window, you who have seen
your happiness on display -- can you find it in yourselves to extract the sting
of this death?

-- Zbigniew Herbert
(translated from the Polish by Alissa Valles)

* * *

"Butterfly Valley:  V"

As admirals, as blues, as mourning cloaks
in the colors' periodic table scheme
assisted by the smallest nectar drop
can raise the earth up like a diadem,

as they, in color's clear lightheartedness,
in lavender, in crimson, lignite brown,
neatly encompass sorrow's hiding places,
although their life of joy is too soon done,

with butterfly proboscis they are able
to breathe the world as an image-fable
light as the gliding flight of a caress,

till every spark of love is used, and just
beauty's and terror's vying sparks remain,
as peacock butterflies are fluttering.

-- Inger Christensen
(translated from the Danish by Susanna Nied)

* * *

"Poem Beginning With An Image Of Fireflies"

All night, watching
those aerial embers
wink off and on

beneath the stars
in the meadowy
clearing around the pond

I try to scatter
the sparks
of my desire, every taste

every touch and trace
even the faintest fragrance
of my wanting you

But who would chasten
the fires of desire
must swim, come morning

in a weedy pond, as I do now
having left behind
my rings, my clothes

the house just now waking
in the welter of bird cry
Must turn aside from

the weeping beech
lichen gray in the mist
Must ignore the sun

burning off the mist
that conceals
the one bright pearl I'm after

Must forget I'm and after
pearl and goal
And go where light is

Around me like silk, like silt
the pond opens and closes
and I swim in circles

my fingertips brushing
frogbit, bottom sedge
and waterweed

Breath by breath I take on
the life of the old
muddy bass who outwits

all the shrap hooks
that have dangled before it
even the tiniest of enticements

and yes, smiling at this fine
conceit, taking refuge
as it fades into water and ripple

into the bubbles of my breath
Until, exhausted, I flip over
on my back, floating now
into a scented commonwealth
of pond lilies -- astonished
to see high overhead

a pond of sky, invisible fathoms
measureless air
that only seems to be rimmed

by the billowy crowns
of he oaks
that edge the clearing

Whatever once I wanted
whatever once I was
is now just

this unguarded light, without
beginning or end
As it floats

in me, I float in it
so empty, nacreous, and bright
I cannot tell in which

pond above or pond below
not one not two
there are floating now

tip-to-tip attached
two green dragonflies
taking their full ease

-- Margaret Gibson

* * *


The June bug
on the screen door
whirs like a small
ugly machine,

and a chorus of frogs
and crickets drones like Muzak
at all the windows.
What we don't quite see

comforts us.
Blink of lightning, grumble
of thunder -- just the heat
clearing its throat.

-- Linda Pastan

* * *

"Death Song"

Hear culex mosquitos sing in my ear,
Minute Bachs composing Komm Susser Tod
Ad Major Gloria Dei, to God's great glory, where
No composer will find them later, save odd
Folk who may come to my puny grave
Where my bones will lie buried, providing
Nutrients to the living.  Till then now
I lie near where my two dogs lie buried
Guarded by a stone St. Francis, who preached
To the wild creatures, God's Little Poor Man,
God's poor retard more likely, who reached
A credulous Pope's attention, as can
People of that ilk.  Now those bones are less
Than dust, no longer feeding even the grass.

-- Vassar Miller

* * *

"The Mayfly is Frail"

The way thek shivering Northern lights are frail.

Erupting floods, flood-lava drag across farms,
Oak-roots cartwheeling --
The inspiration was seismic.

Some mad sculptor
In frenzy remaking the river's rooms
Through days and night of bulging shoulders
And dull bellowing -- cooled with cloudbursts --
Needed all his temperament.

Now he sprawls -- flat in the sun --
Apparently burned out.

And now comes the still small voice.

Out of his glowing exhaustion
Heals a giddy mote,
A purity in a mould

And the mould splits at a touch of the air.

A shimmering beast
Dawn's from the river's opened side.

-- Ted Hughes

* * *

"Luna Moth Meditation"

How foolish to think death's pale flag
would be rectangular and stark, rather than this
scrap of wedding dress symmetrically ripped
and sent back, cruelly,
to be his deaf and nearly mouthless
messenger.  As it unfolds -- gorgeous, appalling --
I can feel my mind fill up
with its own weight, as though
suffering unexpected snowfall.
Think of a Eurydice who makes it
all the way, following an Orpheus
with more self-discipline,
and probably less talent, just to find herself
forbidden that huge
other eros:
how she craves the darkness and her legs
drink down into dirt.  And that moment
in the sickroom when the dead one's been removed
and the Kleenex in the waste can
starts to metamorphose, tissue
taking wing, wing
taking the very drape and slope of grief
and struggling out the door.

-- Don McKay

* * *

"The Dragonfly"

You are made of almost nothing
But of enough
To be great eyes
And diaphanous double vans;
To be ceaseless movement,
Unending hunger,
Grappling love.

Link between water and air,
Earth repels you.
Light touches you only to shift into iridescence
Upon your body and wings.

Twice-born, predator,
You split into the heat.
Swift beyond calculation or capture
You dart into the shadow
Which consmes you.

You rocket into the day.
But at last, when the wind flattens the grasses,
For you, the design and purpose stop.

And you fall
With the other husks of summer.

-- Louise Bogan

* * *

Addendum:  I accidently omitted this from
the original post.

"The Fruitfly"

The vein's of the fruit fly's wings map the rivers
of a small corner of Minnesota and Ontario
as they may have flowed or yet may flow.

Out of fruit, out of nothing, the fly beats its wings
a thousand thousand times before hands clap it
not into history, for that would take a scrawl

darker and longer than its 6 point semi-colon
rinsed from the palms, but into diminishing silence.
Let's say the first molecule of air to be unmoved

by its high-pitched harmony marks its end.
By then bananas, mangos and papayas,
pomegranates, quinces and figs, all feared

exotic fruit will burst from their nothings
generations of possible geographies.

-- Stephen Brockwell

* * *
* * *

Thanks for posting these bug poems. I read and enjoyed them all. Many of the poets names were unfamiliar to me, so I'll have to have another look at some of the poems and write the poet's names down so I can find some of their other work. Thanks again.
Hi Hedgie,

Thank you so much for telling me about the poetry books involving Emily Carr. I will look for those books at my library.

I love your blog. I want to just stay here and read your poetry entries. So, if it's alright, I am going to follow your blog. It looks like just what I've been looking for lately. Thanks again.
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