POETRY: The Measuring Worm, and other beastie poems

beastie poems

A Measuring Worm

This yellow striped green
Caterpillar, climbing up
The steep window screen,

Constantly (for lack
Of a full set of legs) keeps
Humping up his back.

It’s as if he sent
By a sort of semaphore
Dark omegas meant

To warn of Last Things.
Although he doesn’t know it,
He will soon have wings,

And I, too, don’t know
Toward what undreamt condition
Inch by inch I go.

(Richard Wilbur)

Parable of the Moth

Consider this: a moth flies into a man’s ear
One ordinary evening of unnoticed pleasures.
When the moth beats its wings, all the winds
Of earth gather in his ear, roar like nothing
He has ever heard. He shakes and shakes
His head, has his wife dig deep into his ear
With a Q-tip, but the roar will not cease.

It seems as if all the doors and windows
Of his house have blown away at once —
The strange play of circumstances over which
He never had control, but which he could ignore
Until the evening disappeared as if he had
Never lived it. His body no longer
Seems his own; he screams in pain to drown
Out the wind inside his ear, and curses God,
Who, hours ago, was a benign generalization
In a world going along well enough.

On the way to the hospital, his wife stops
The car, tells her husband to get out,
To sit in the grass. There are no car lights,
No streetlights, no moon. She takes
A flashlight from the glove compartment
And holds it beside his ear and, unbelievably,
The moth flies towards the light. His eyes

Are wet. He feels as if he’s suddenly a pilgrim
On the shore of an unexpected world.
When he lies back in the grass, he is a boy
Again. His wife is shining the flashlight
Into the sky and there is only the silence
He has never heard, and the small road
Of light going somewhere he has never been.

(Robert Cording)

The Ant

The ant moves on his tiny Sephardic feet.
The flute is always glad to repeat the same note.
The ocean rejoices in its dusky mansion.

Often bears are piled up close to each other.
In their world it’s just one hump after another.
It’s like looking at piles of many melons.

You and I have spent so many hours working.
We have paid dearly for the life we have.
It’s all right if we do nothing tonight.

I am so much in love with mournful music
That I don’t bother to look for violinists.
The aging peepers satisfy me for hours.

I love to see the fiddlers tuning up their old fiddles,
And the singer urging the low notes to come.
I saw her trying to keep the dawn from breaking.

You and I have worked hard for the life we have.
But we love to remember the way the soul leaps
Over and over into the lonely heavens.

(Robert Bly)

The Dragonfly

You are made of almost nothing
But of enough
To be great eyes
And diaphanous double vans;
To be ceaseless movement,
Unending hunger
Grappling love.

Link between water and air,
Earth repels you.
Light touches you only to shift into iridescence
Upon your body and wings.

Twice-born, predator,
You split into the heat.
Swift beyond calculation or capture
You dart into the shadow
Which consumes you.

You rocket into the day.
But at last, when the wind flattens the grasses,
For you, the design and purpose stop.

And you fall
With the other husks of summer.

(Louise Bogan)

The Mosquito Knows

The mosquito knows full well, small as he is
he’s a beast of prey.
But after all
he only takes his bellyful,
he doesn’t put my blood in the bank.

(D. H. Lawrence)

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