BEETLE BACKS AND WINGS
I grabbed a shirt and wrapped the giant
beetle in the cloth. I gently carried him
out to the dark. To the world of mosquitoes
and moths, his kind. When I dropped him
on the porch he paused, found his bearings,
then scrabbled toward a place I do not know:
The underworld of beetle holes,
shiny shells and leggy families crowding.
Every day the world is buzzing, crawling,
calling to a nest. The olive-sided flycatcher
offers her cadenza: “You COULD be!
You COULD be!” and I skate
along those notes, trying to fly
on sound as much as wing to be
inside her joy, her insistence without doubt.
She may eat the beetle, yes, but who says
that death is every time a failure?
What is this world anyway, when we finally slip
through that membrane which keeps us
from the dead? The flycatcher – can’t she be
there, too? And how could heaven not
contain both beetle and the bird? I have no use
for Elysium without the River Styx. Like the glossy
feathers of the hummingbird – not green at all,
merely a reflection of light’s emerald wavelength –
this world is false. Oh, but the sheen of it
(beetle backs and wings) keeps me
coming back for more.
by Christine Hemp
from “That Fall” (Finishing Line Press)
IMAGE: John James Audubon (1785-1851)
Olive sided Flycatcher. From “The Birds of America” (Amsterdam Edition)