The Future Is the Giant Flame in the Sky
My intelligence is
time I die
nothing & know
Our wings are deaf.
Notch and Making
For a thing whose presence or absence makes no visible difference
In a form notched, a flute
The sustenance, the pilfered shred of carcass—the ant from under a decomposition of grasshopper, carrying on its back, a botched language of survival and hunger.
Mating coloration: blue
The dragonflies meet in a bog, layered like symbols, one bends its abdomen, sounds like enjambment, sinks its mate, the carcass still electric with reproduction. One lays sacs in the algae beneath which the other bobs, a violated language of survival and instinct pleasure, the over-loved corpse is blue. Leave no witness. The larvae are only DNA.
The poem corpses a carcass—
Corpse me again and I’ll suck the hue from your exoskeleton, make love to it.
I am a noun
dressed in a
possessive noun carcass
Of all the dead floating in this bog, the ones with multiple sight
The manner in which these may be imitated
I am ain anotch
Cut in sections, kinetic, the syllable riots a line from under a carcass
Carnivore, Orpheus, or
Head, thorax, listen, the abdomen, no less hard
A line submerges a line, erotic death
The sentence thought itself retrospective
A corpse in a cicada’s carcass
Blue in that hollow sound
The Common Mormon
At night, he is all cheekbone-jawline-teeth inside me, inside me
Clenching with a hollow want. Mandibles open this way, for more.
In the rainy season, he smiles a mellow smile—pivoting around
undone words like “justice” and “poverty”—the absence of something.
I falter between the Koh Rong coastline complete with white crabs
and this new person I do not recognize.
I remember the current pulling, the full moon,
and the quiver of water circling our necks.
Outside the Royal Palace, my compound eyes prism a middle-aged man stretching
the way I do—a slow, static bend.
Skin cracks open, anew.
Something won’t forgive—refuses to forget.
With a bicycle at his hip or in the jungle, he doesn’t even look to see if I’m still there.
Minutes are hours while I wait for him to touch me.
Dinner theatre includes talk of abortion.
The clear skin of maggots, clenching.
Oblique references detonate in silence.
Inedible subtitles repeat: What the fuck?
Palm-sized fears clatter for the light, strum the air for the smell of pussy.
These plush pixels won’t minimize the way antidepressants do.
He is not a moth.
We are butterflies, barely alive.
The Common Mormon is a species of swallowtail marked by its red-bodied mimicry.
Polygamous namesake, this creature is known for having three different females.
What the blonde one told me was all search terms like impregnation and village.
The Other One held her breath, then let it out.
The male has only one morph—jet black with white spots—
a shady forewing and a shady hindwing to match.
On a balcony, amidst the hive of construction,
there is still light enough out to see.
Over cheap beer, a white man tells me there is no word for “vulnerable” in Khmer.
But what does he even know besides his own authority?
The smallest bug that crawls was taller than
A tree, the mustard seed loomed like a man.
The earth that writhes eternally with pain
Of birth, and woe of taking back her slain,
Laid bare her teeming bosom to my sight,
—Countee Cullen, from “The Shroud of Color”
The idea of insect poetics is an interesting one as it brings to mind two images that are both congruous as well as fundamentally at odds with one another: the shelled beetle whose body is controlled and rigid—a form provided for it by its crisp exoskeleton; and the chrysalis—what a thin parchment home, pulsing with life, begging to be torn through and discarded. In other words, when attempting to reconcile insects and poetics, my mind immediately races towards the balance of rigid constraint and aggressive freedom. Perhaps this particular visualization is one that we return to time and time again, I know I do—how to craft such a balance between the unpredictable and the expected; and then, how to surprise both ourselves and our potential audience. Furthermore, and perhaps beyond surprise, or with experience of that surprise, how does a poet practice becoming what it is inherently not?
The execution of a hundred roaches: swayed toothy travelers meeting their doom.
Bellies up, percolating in the heat: just a couple more days.
That tingling feeling along the hairs on your arm. That constant feeling that something is there. But it isn’t. But it is. There.
A most appropriate setting for an execution.
Until you get to know the place, it appears cozy, quaint, relatively clean.
Clutching your coffee, you open the cupboard and a roach jumps out at you. You glean two dead roaches behind the sugar and another one scurrying away. There is more than one entrance into the cupboard. It is common to see them in there, ravaging about and around the spices.
You call them intruders but probably they were here first. You didn’t sign up for so many roommates.
You are outnumbered, of course.
You used to be afraid of roaches: disgusting, filthy creatures. Now: sighs of exasperation.
At a previous place, they were huge. Once, when you were sleeping, you felt something sudden and heavy on your arm. You flung it across the room in the dark thinking it was a giant roach. But when you ran to turn on the lights, you saw a little mouse sitting there, dazed, confused, answering your gaze with his. You spent the entire night awake and in the morning you went to the front door where you found the mouse waiting to be let out.
You had planned on living here for just three months. It’s been a year and a half.
Scrambling, all lined up. Under and behind things. You decided: tomorrow.
You decided: we need more roach poison.
To get over a fear is to live inside of it, excessively.
You spent the entire night awake.
To destroy the effect of the whole.
I think of insects I think of bugs. I think of bugs I think of something making my phone less than magic or as a plot point in a movie about hackerz.
I think of bugs I think of yelling in a business meeting, But the bugs are the feature! because this seems like something a person should say in a business meeting.
Steve Jobs said this maybe. Steve Jobs died of cancer definitely. I think of cancer I think of bugs. I think of a black swarm hollowing out a tree. I think about this a lot because I know what’s going to kill me probably.
It’s being too much like a tree.
I knew an entomologist once who was bipoloar. I hope he doesn’t die of cancer. That would be a tragic number of bugs for one life. But I think that’s maybe one of only two numbers of bugs. You can have one bug. Or you can have a tragic number of bugs.
No one has one bug.
A woman came over the other week and counted the spiders on my plants. You have four spiders, she said. No, six. And I should have said back, But the bugs are the feature!
She’s gone, but it’s not like the spiders got her.
If that’s what you’re thinking.
I let the spiders build their webs around my plants because the only reason I have plants in the first place is so my apartment has something else alive in it. Spiders are alive, I think. I’m not a bug scientist.
What I’m trying to say about bugs is this: in the 3rd grade I was in a school play called GOING BUGGY. I played a grasshopper. I don’t know if he had a backstory. I think he was just a grasshopper. My mother made me a costume out of pajamas and wire hangers, and I remember being disappointed with it. Being a parent is hard.
If someone asked me now to make a grasshopper costume for a school play I’d probably cry then become a bug scientist then remember I know the word entomologist then begin to sew then finish the costume then realize the school play was 32 years ago then die peacefully from bugs.
But no one asks. Hence the plants. Hence the spiders.
1.Take our most compassionate-bitter poet. She does not want to be here. She wears black nicked from a collapsed hibiscus.
2.She wants to be here.
3.Deviance. In insect poetics, a sexy term for an active ambivalence.
4.She shows up for her swarm reading, plays the old thank-you-for-having-me pattern.
5.But when it’s time for her to read, she falls through devices and protection into her own form and all the time she has spent there, thinking, quivering, alone, and when she looks up from the page she feels compassionate-human again.
6.Vulnerability. In insect poetics, a lavender-glaze way of addressing and masking one’s insecurity.
7.Insecurity. How, anxious and scaly, we begin.
8.Consider, preaches the chromatic indie darling of insect poetics, the world of collaboration!
9.When I think of collaboration, I think of the morning that Virginia and Leonard Woolf bugged out of the flat and disappeared—blue, green, hot—into the camera shop.
9a.Shutter, butter, flitter, flutter.
10.Even at swarm readings, we dip our camera-phones in filters, scanning for the singular.
10a.The concept of the singular. In insect poetics, a stop-motion hibiscus, gathering on the internet.
11.Slogan for insect poetics: Never quite stunned enough to quit.
12.“What is one’s relation to insects?” Virginia asks her diary.
13.How do you respond to the pressures of performing the singular? the diary asks.
Driving to Oregon to get married I misread Veterans Memorial Highway for Verizon Wireless Memorial Highway. I do it twice in fact. Four times if you count the drive back. In Oregon I misread Pet Grooming for Poet Grooming and see poets tirelessly picking crum out of each other’s hair. At the corner store in Evanston, WY they’ve named the bathroom Big Moon. The entrance walls are a forest of deep, snowy pine. To transpose one environment onto another: this must be what it’s like to be an insect, when all the things that are inside of you leave and many of the things on the outside find their way in. Today I catch a cricket in my bare hands and bring it inside to show my daughter but when I open my hands one of its legs is missing. I wonder if I’ve done it, and I wonder why my daughter is frightened of such a small creature, and why my wife won’t touch it. When I was young I would use malapropisms regularly and these mistaken readings of signs must be an extension of that. Now my wife says things like “what’s that called when you focus on something” and it’s this constant movement among attempts at naming our living that creates chaos with order intrinsic in it. For instance: I am alone on a two lane highway in the open West. I am moving cautiously along scrabble up a high desert plateau. I am awaiting a ferry ride in Maine. Lately each day the colors reimagine me elsewhere, not always to reappear.
Emma, do you prefer the bumblebee or the butterfly? A line from a Diggable Planets song gets stuck in my head, “Butterfly may the boogie be with you.” Emma remains skeptical of the boogie. I think of Kim’s Bugging Watch, “Harlan is scared of bugs. He wrote a poem about bugs.” Hitomi is scared of bugs too. Her poem remains unwritten. I think of Sawako’s ants, “Back to the ant farm circulating in my body.” A line from Eric’s poem, “Iris decoded the primal sting from a pile of puréed bees.” Another line from Michele’s poem, “A worm in its lifetime moves short distances.” Emma do you see the spider’s eyes? Is that spider looking at you?
The time comes to uncover the insects that inhabit my poems. Emma let’s do a scavenger hunt for words. No mommy won’t help us because she doesn’t like insects. We find “ants single-file in revolution,” ants covering a dead body, “summer hornets fist-sized,” “blackened grasshoppers” in a burning field & burning buttercups (in another field) with two worms sucking each other’s tail. The worm is my sister. I am the other worm. We are the circle of life & death. I dread the day Emma understands life & death. We continue hunting & find “black mosquitos by the creek” & something happening “on the bent back of a shiny beetle,” a line I remember writing while watching Out 1 with Jared, Farrah, & Hitomi. A line, like most of my lines written before the existence of Emma. We find slugs in kale, someone afraid of spiders, more insects “falling dead from trees,” & finally I decide to measure the width of Emma’s shoulders with centipedes while the ladybug on her onesie remains motionless. There are more ants. “These are not my ants/ yet they appear.” Other insects persist, but we are tired of being captors & fall asleep dreaming of open fields & murmuring bees.