He Finds A Kissing Bug
on my eyelid and says it is a tiny
curse from the nopal. I ask him why
it cursed me and he says, You ate
the nopal’s fruit and licked your fingers
for every thorn to see. He smashes
the bug between two fingers
and throws it in a plastic cup.
It floats on half-melted ice. Its body
flat and brown, an open root
swelling with water. He smashes it
against the cup’s side until the blood
it took from me dyes the water
pink. The kissing bug is mad, he says,
you stole the fruit from its mother so it
wanted to steal your blood from you.
I laugh, and dab concealer to cover
the swelling. I think of the rat’s nest
under the nopal—the smell of rotting
fruit and feces. I think of the rats’ eyes,
sharp cameras tracking my theft
from their nopal. They sent the kissing bug
to show you, he says, that the smallest
theft is the swelling of an eye. A bearable
pain, until occlusions make you see
the nopal in your yard bloated with kissing bugs
in a dark and vibrating sea. I close my eyes
and run my fingers across each lid.
I imagine the red dot rising until
I can’t see. With a spoon I rescue
what’s left of the kissing bug
from drowning and kiss it—
the way the kissing bug kissed me.
You want to talk about desire, the way bodies change—or yours has. The way it could be love or it could be hormones and what is desire and what is yearning and isn’t it all just love, that broad umbrella, her stride?
A zietgeber is an external or environmental cue that synchronizes an organism’s biological rhythms to the Earth’s twenty-four light/dark cycle and twelve month cycle, and you lack circadia. Some nights you are dreaming before eight. Others, you watch dawn tint the sky with magical colors only the desert can display.
Night is a swarm of silence and you wait for revelation. School or hive or swarm, regardless, there were a whole lot of them gathered around your body, huddled and lashing, all that poison and spinning electricity: you glowed in that ocean.
Herd. It was a herd of Portuguese man o’war. This was the first time you thought you would die. This was the first time it was true.
The swarm is a feeling: of acceptance, of denial, of rejection.
In middle school, Crystal Jordan put the date of the day each of her best friends forever should start her period on book cover of her math book on a drawing of a school of fish. When she decided you were no longer her friend, she crossed out your number and started the rumor that you hadn’t even started your period yet. Girls can be cruel. This is not the most poignant example of her cruelty, nor is it indicative of the extent of cruelty teenaged years promise, but in the simple act of X-ing out your name, you feel the heat of rejection as bright as memory.
The swarm is not so unlike unending sleep, its trance and sorcery, but there are no Charmings left, not a single goddamn one.
So you are waiting in a tree for no one to appear.
Love feels like a swarm like heartbreak does too. There is no route for escape.
You are banished by the swarm, like homo sacer, and will you forgive yourself for the sins and cruelty you have yet to commit?
The swarm is, after all, a family.
Insects, you don’t sleep enough these days.
Insects, you are the underlords of the infinite cave.
I am preparing to ask permission to enter infinity.
I don’t really plan on going there, but then I guess I do.
If I turn into a mulch in the Earth, I’ll blame: insects.
If I die and renew the Earth, it will be with the insects.
I haven’t thought about my favorite bug in a while.
But it’s probably still the Phasmatodea / walking stick.
I see you there, like an apparition or a ghost-friend.
Appearing to suddenly be there, you’ve already been.
I feel like I’m the Earth suddenly liking the Earth.
There’s nothing in the sand but all of the sand.
Have you read the Footsteps magnet on my fridge?
I want to say, “That was when I carried you.”
That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm hath left hath the caterpiller eaten.
—The Book of Joel 1:4, KJV
(After Joyelle McSweeney & Dodie Bellamy)
Your insect lives on a different time scale, the hurt covering my left ball. Your length defined by mutation, you ant into enraged action, immediately spasming, chemically induced, mething up the length of my strap. Glued to my crack, you proliferate my buggered, buggy tail against your nipples. On the tips of spasming flight, dozens of your excruciating mutations poison my dynamic challenge, speedily sinking your molten full-length alternative into my swarm, my ravening, pissed-on barbs. You penetrate my deep ridge six times a summer, my bugs perfectly capable of experiencing searing pain, shitting explosive, multilinear stings over every area of my cock. I spasm, selected, you mutating into my body, my end splitting itself on your linear, future-oriented time that scales my armored tail to my pussy. Your flexing, wasteful evolution gouges my disgusting pink member, slick with more mutations than it needs. With your death shits entwined, embedded in my slim body, we are true experimenters, bugs who fail, our legs kicked at, constantly non-durable, repositories of overwhelming grasp. The tip of my tail splits open into four parts, my pale pink anti-history winking before it stops. Your insect curls into my bug life, pulling your hands into my mitochondria, our hyperdeathcycles gooing into our insects, feeling our mutant forms, the tide of our pussies continuing to pump bug time. I continue to plant my eggs there, time flowing, mouth sucking fiercely on your large breast. My throat keeps gulping your bug juice, you nylon in, and I open up my ribcage to bug time. Your insect delivers more, my eyes squinting, my bug animated by your infestation, your appendage, green ooze dripping from my infested chest, lighting up like your own hollow, which startled us the most. A wedding: You slice at my matter, becoming thick, saying: Go for bug time. Shit silk.
The Velvet Divorce
When you left my mind rushed in
To soothe the sparking hole
A swarm of bees stung the pain awake
At Safeway buying toilet paper my desire
Grew so bloated I tripped, could have fucked
A softening bus bench
While my head continued to gnaw
Raw black stars
—Emily Kendel Frey
A Poetics of Kleptoparasitism
There is a spider in every corner of my house. At every angle they dangle. Broom them away one day, the cousin is there the next. They are typical leggy things, some not even properly spiders, with five or six or seven legs.
But now there is a new habitant—a truer spider, who is appearing not in the corners but in the right angles of the place. It is a foamy pale, translucent. You might think it the ghost of a spider, or a first draft, as if its body intends to absorb color.
Otherwise, I don’t know its plans, but it is more of a true spider: discernible body, a full eight legs and always curled, it seems, in preparation for something. First one downstairs, then another upstairs. They don’t make webs but the webs seems to move with them, like a cloak.
Between them and the corner spiders, who seem like delicate lace now more than anything, there is the threat of a coming altercation.
The web, a sticky pattern of entrapment, dotted with the caught and the hollowed out, always remains. The web’s inhabitant is the caretaker of, and also is, its content. Those eating; eventually eaten.
Trapped between the window pane and the screen
tap-tick-tapping up and down measuring
its limits with plenty of air inside
but nothing to eat and whispering Z’s
—ellipses waiting—muffled by the glass,
this house fly has captured my attention
as in sharp bursts of wings it maps its cell
where I know, but it does not, it will grow
weaker there and subsequently expire;
I fail to notice that the dog’s barking
must mean a stranger’s too close to the house
that something’s not now as it should be here
—one time she barked as the oven began to smoke.
I wonder if it’s fire or a figure
that leads me to what this fly comes to know.
Praying Mantis (An Index)
for Joan Mitchell
each of them makes a sound, even under dust, the white chair, the cherry wood, the box of seedlings, cars released through yellow lights, the whole gray evening coming down, garfish in trees, I get nervous, I get a little hungry, mist on the skin of fruit, chips on a casserole, my grandmother’s recipe, this must come from an old place, a little makes a little more, the grainy batter, the clearness of celery, a figure written out by grass, everything a piece, the momentary swagger, another woman walking by in the rain, fading blue hair, third-life crisis style, I want to be a little stronger, I mean softer, full-on saturation, the brief simulation of prayer, stomping through fetid pools, all that I’m looking at, a field of greenery, atomized liquid, an umbrella unhooking, share your life with me
SPIRIT // INSECT
Summer, the mountains of North Carolina, I see you, a new insect, one unwritten in the annals of my childhood. You emanate deadliness, patterned with black and white with a splash of vivid green. Your legs needle the fabric of your deck chair perch. I am swallowed by wonder and horror. The thrill of the stranger. The ambassador of a foreign state.
Curiosity is the mother of cruelty: the lepidopterist’s pin. We may respond to the unknown with pure fear. We may move to exterminate without waiting for knowledge. We are not absolutely wrong to do so. Yes, you are small, but you are many, and varied, and the ways in which you come for us are many, and varied. You lay your eggs in the food we need to live. You suck our blood and send chain letters of disease. We are poisoned, we are hungry, and you bore through the foundations of our houses.
I admit I crave permanence, and control, and I know that to fight you is to fight entropy. To fight the wild throes of nature that press and slip through the smallest cracks. But you, angel of secrets: how like a jewel you are this summer, iridescent green and gold, parting your armor to part the air. You click, you thrum like the heart of a human in love. You spill your brilliance up the winding stair of sunlight, and I retreat in awe.
The dreaded insect of the city I live in now, my human hive, gleams like old copper, and rolls in droves. With these friends of yours, there is no compromise. The revulsion I feel is the opposite face of the wonder you inspire, and I kill on sight, with any instrument on hand. I don’t know if any of you understands pain – the only certainty is that we all want to live. You fight dismemberment and extermination as hotly as any mammal.
We have learned (often too late) what your invisible work does to keep animals like us alive. Birds, fruit, flowers, honey, all the stuff of romance. What grace. No human dancer could equal your sure footing and flight – usually. We make much of the ditzy moth blinded by electric light, or the ant distracted by scent, but mostly because these are anomalies. The rest of you waltz on the ceiling while we plod along.
Last night, I dreamed I discovered all us humans have a mantis inside us. Living, bright green and folded limbs. Cool unclosing eyes. In my sleep, it was a relief to know you were there, that if I peeled back the layers of skin and fat, if I pulled aside the slabs of muscle, you would be at the core of me, resting in prayer, or carefully ascending the ladder of my bones.
I remember when I taught myself fear of insects. I was young, brown and athletic with the most unkempt afro, a sharp tongue, and a hot temper, but I wanted to seem delicate enough to be loved. It was easy enough to give a little scream and run away giggling when a caterpillar came into view; it has proved much more difficult to unlearn this fear. In science fiction, one of my favorite genres, the bad alien monster often looks like an insect, a woman’s genitals, or both.
I stunted my understanding of beauty because I was afraid to evolve. I couldn’t fathom how a larva like me would ever find love, nor how the plague of gypsy moths that swept through my city each decade was in any way beautiful. Yet those creatures were entirely themselves, bright green with stark black and white eye spots, slinking along every surface of the world.
Angel of secrets, teach me to grow. With a click the wings spin loose; the curtain of air parts.
The insect itself is poetic form. Organs of vision, antennae, detachable legs, powdery, tragic, cannibalistic. The word is derived from Latin: insectum, which means “cut into sections.” Did you know that earwigs are some of the only insects to show maternal care? Have you seen the Hanging Gardens of Babylon? It’s time I made something of myself on the banks of the Euphrates.
Beatrice’s midriff: the softest fuzz—
the middle of the insect is very Dantesque.
Imagine the purity of the Pope’s spermatozoon. Powerful, calm, shooting towards Nothing—the purest of ovum, matter beyond vision. Now who’s got the Holy Keys to the Jeep? Vrooooom.
God’s ovum tremble at night, feeling the rushing success of another meet-and-great.
[The end of the abdomen, the most delicate part]
Dear Fred, the bees out here taste like an insecticide a poet wrote the advertising jingle for. Taking notes for a poem aging each second. Horses and new colts race past a patch of wild violets I found on a clump of sun-warmed earth. This is when I found a hive. I could hear them at first. They must have known I was completely at ease, landing on my eyebrows and toes, dancing. No stings. My goal was to have sex near a hive but my boyfriend Rich backed out, afraid of bee stings. I placed an add online, “Queer in search of man to have sex next to a beehive.” Some of the responses said they would hook up to have sex with me in the woods, but minus the beehive, and another said I seemed crazy and he had to meet me. But in the end no one wanted sex with bees, so I was on my own, masturbating next to the humming and it was beautiful how curious they were with my activity. No stings. Dancing on my shoulders and thighs, but no stings. To my surprise they feasted on my semen. They ate it like I had provided an amazing delicacy and I cannot deny feeling pride. It was an amazing experience and I don’t know why it took me five decades to have sex with bees. But finally! My notes became a poem titled “Bug I Love You.”