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The Green Insect

John Steffler


I had a green insect, a kind that had never before been
          seen,
descendant of an ancient nation, regal, rigid in ritual.

It would sun itself on my windowsill, stretching its legs
one by one, its hinged joints, its swivel joints, its
          claws,
unfolding and folding its Swiss army knife implements.
It was ready for a landing on the moon.

Around my page it marched itself like a colour guard.
It halted, and its segments fell into place, jolting all
          down the line.

It uncased its wings which glistened the way sometimes very
          old things glisten: tortoiseshell fans, black veils,
          lantern glass.

It was a plant with a will, an independent plant, an early
          invention wiser than what we've arrived at now.
It was a brain coiled in amulets for whom nature is all
          hieroglyphs.

People gawked, and a woman pointed a camera, and I
          hesitated, but -- I did -- I held the insect up by its
          long back legs like a badge, like my accomplishment,
and the air flashed, and the insect twisted and fought,
          breaking its legs in my fingertips, and hung

lunging, fettered with stems of grass,

and I laid it gently down on a clean page,
but it wanted no convalescence,

it ripped up reality, it flung away time and space,

I couldn't believe the strength it had,

it unwound its history, ran out its spring in kicks and
          rage, denied itself, denied me and my ownership,
          fizzed, shrank, took off in wave after wave of murder,
          and left nothing but this page faintly stained with
          green.



John Steffler's works copyright © to the author.


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