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Archive for August, 2007

OBJECTS IN THE MIRROR . . .

I’m tired of being like the bee who’s duped into mating
with ophrys orchids mimicking winsome
female bees, only to discover a bee’s not a bee,

and I’m nothing more than a glorified pollinator.
Isn’t it better to be an insect
who pretends to be a flower, like the delicate-petaled

Malaysian orchid mantis, who entices crickets, flies,
locusts, and moths into her pink embrace?
(Ambuscade of bewildering mandibles, necks severed

in a single, guillotine-like strike. Such fierce clarity.)
Or how about the complex stratagems
of the Maculinea butterfly, who lays her eggs

inside wild buds of thyme? Her caterpillars hatch, eating
their way out of thyme until they become
steeped in it, sweating a spicy milk crazy-delicious

to red ants who, in a gluttonous haze, carry the soft
fragrant sultans back to the nest to be
bathed and groomed by worker ants. Then, like con-men in a heist

movie locked in the bank vault at night, the caterpillars
eat the stored hoard of ant larvae and eggs
before fleeing the scene of the crime in a sly disguise.

Or consider female Photuris fireflies, who copy
the intricate mating signal flashes
of other firefly species⎯the same way child prodigies

can play back, note for perfect note, an entire sonata
after no more than a single hearing⎯
in a performance so authentically compelling that

male fireflies respond to the coded flashing come-ons
as if they were one of their own, only
to be killed and consumed. Nothing really is as it seems,

and no one’s really who or what they say they are. Hawk moth
caterpillars pass themselves off as snakes,
while deliciously-edible Viceroy butterflies robe

themselves to look like toxic Monarchs, whose stained-glass orange
wings are spiked and windowpaned with poison
Milkweed leaves. Everything’s masquerade, subterfuge, and soap

opera, revealing only that it’s arrogance to think
we could ever really know exactly
what it is we’re getting into. Imagine tropical

male ants who chemically disguise themselves in the sultry
perfume of virgin queens⎯slipping past more
aggressive males to insinuate themselves into the quick

pulsing heart of the nest where, cross-dressed in female scent,
they, with their gentler art, are allowed to mate
with the queen. Please, just think of that should you ever find my

owlish decoy eye-spots unconvincing enough to wish
to tear into my wings. Take a moment
to think of that before you shame me for my illusions.

(One of two poems just out in the Summer 2007 issue of The Southern Review.)

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UNHIATUSED

This clotted knotwork divides and subdivides;

fetus with a tight red fist;

tangled skein of yarn, unraveling arteries;

pulling and pulling;

rasp and scratched tug of red wool;

(Red Heart yarn — three-ply — worsted)

lost thread, dropped stitch, snipped;

insistent tick of knitting needles

with their too-bright

clicking and fretting and clicking.

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