POEM OF THE WEEK: Beetle Backs and Wings

Audobon Cropped














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)

About Christine Hemp

Poet and writer Christine Hemp has aired her poems and essays on NPR’s Morning Edition; she has sent a poem of hers into space on a NASA mission to monitor the birth of stars; and her essays have appeared in such publications as the Iowa Review, Yale Anglers Journal, and the Boston Globe. Her awards include Harvard Extension School’s Conway Award for Teaching Writing, a Washington State Artist Trust Fellowship for Literature, and an Iowa Review Award. Her poetry collection, That Fall, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2011. Hemp teaches at the University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival.
Poems and Ponderings

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