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Praying Mantis

ISSUE:  Autumn 1988
Brown twig with a scored, russet skirt of wings
you cling to the side of the garbage can
where the lid fits, and except for a slight twitch
to your pointed mandible, hold wholly still.
When you finally move, it’s just to shift
your strand-like, green, back legs
one at a time, each leg tapping to find
the next foothold, the way a blind man tests
with his stick, seeming to feel your way
towards a next meal that is nowhere evident.
Unlike the lion as it inches through the grass,
for you the hunt is never in pursuit
but in opportunity—what comes to you
as you wait, forearms set for the next
approaching life: bluebottle, fruit,
even horseflies might do if only they’d appear,
swoop down and so, by accident, choose you,
drawn by the stench of refuse—coffee grounds,
rinds, all the sticky, fleshy things.
How can you stand the suspense?
I cannot stand the suspense, and yet
as the morning sun moves imperceptibly forward,
I sit on the piled newspapers I came to throw away,
I sit at your feet, so stilled that in time
the air breaks into hums of many registers
as it swirls and startles and catches with flies.


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