I don’t know
if they are a fruit
or a vegetable
or a tuber
or something else entirely
because they look
to have been born
in the earth—
but there they are
covered in mud
like a newborn
covered in blood—
ugly pink skin
over flesh so tough
it takes a blade
full of serrations
to cut to the root
of the mystery—
which is that the god
of sweet potatoes
that they aren’t beautiful
You found one on the side of your house—
an Assassin Bug: black and glossy
with a rounded sharp-ridged back—
a tiny stegosaurus with a name that means
I’m not messing around—
not like you’ve been messing around
for the past year—
waiting until everyone else was asleep
before you tiptoed into the night
to meet a woman who could tell you
that the bug you found had another name—
more specifically, a Wheel Bug—
part of the Reduviidae family—
a creature who pierces its prey
with a straw-like appendage
then injects saliva that dissolves soft tissue
from the inside out.
You, too, have been living with two identities:
husband in one home, lover in another.
You belong to one family,
but feel more alive in the other,
where there are field guides on the shelves
from bugs to birds to trees—
and you wouldn’t have brought this strange insect
to your wife’s attention if it hadn’t reminded you
of the woman you can’t tell her about—
the strange woman who injected into you
feelings that are starting to dissolve
life as you know it from the inside out.
It’s 92 degrees outside
and you are chilled to the bone
as if your body believes
you are at the base
of a melting ice cap
and you are
as it rises
for the alcohol
you’d be frozen solid
because he isn’t coming back
to warm you, thaw you or carry you away
into a future that will go down
in the history books
like the landscape
a glacier leaves behind.
Boneset and Snakeroot.
Black-eyed Susan and Yellow Coneflower.
Fernleaf Phacelia and Jacob’s Ladder—
wild beauties so similar
that I wanted to start paying attention
to the subtle differences—
differences that wouldn’t confuse
a botanist whose life was spent
studying the details
of leaves and stems
and the number of petals
that differentiate Rue Anemone
from False Rue Anemone.
And because learning takes time
it shouldn’t upset me
that I couldn’t identify
the man in my bed as toxic,
because he tasted sweet
like the wild raspberries
we picked in the woods—
but his thorns are still lodged in my skin
like a lesson I never thought
I’d need to learn—
but if I hadn’t wandered
into that forbidden garden
I would never have been able to recognize love
as unmistakable as Bloodroot and Firepink.
Love fragrant as Bluebells,
perennial and white as Shooting Stars.
You see them everywhere:
Alone at the corner table.
Solo at the Sunday afternoon matinee.
Walking the adorable puppy
along 10th Street.
Attending the gallery opening
on Friday night
wearing shoes with ‘unapproachable’
written all over them.
Sometimes you pass
the match of your dreams
on a hike in the woods
and make the kind of eye contact
that says it’s too bad we’re moving so fast
in opposite directions.
And most of these people
would like to be one half
of a couple in love,
except for the one
with whom you’re smitten–
that strange and beautiful
sculpture of a man
whose desires are so abstract
there is no way to tell if he’s afraid of love
or just committed to a life
that will never include it.
I started a YouTube channel for my poetry! It’s called Gut Punch Poetry.
I’ll still be posting here, but if you want to hear me read my work, please subscribe!
You can like, share, comment, and ask questions! It will feel more engaging and personal.
I’ve been putting it off because I didn’t feel I had the right setup (the right camera and audio equipment, the right space, the right lighting, etc…) BUT I just needed to BEGIN.
I figure I can make improvements over time, and I’m sure I’ll look back on my early videos with shame and embarrassment, but I had to start somewhere!