Poetry / Amy Wright
:: Hymenopus ::
Environment: Room temperature, mist daily.
—Bugs as Pets
Walking flower, dandy
orchid mimicker with rose-mottled
forelegs, transformer petals
ready to drawbridge on the hapless.
Tart mantis, nectar decoy
who waits and is rewarded
for manipulating the stage show,
proffering an empty banquet
before ticklish curtains,
your pollen-lined thorax
a bestial trick of the great
pretender. Rare specimen
who traverses the lip of a lady
slipper, a bluebottle buzzes
your lavender ovules, unblinking
skyward, raindrops wetting
the bittersweet chasm
of your badness.
From the writer
:: Account ::
I am not a parent, but when I saw the book Bugs as Pets, I imagined being or having the kind of parents who would facilitate such a wild learning experience for their children. No Golden Retrievers here! If I gleaned patience from training the Labradors of my youth to sit, and received affectionate thanks in the form of hand licks, I wondered what memories and insight would come of having a pet one might not, in most cases, actually pet.
Looking through this book was part of the research for my current manuscript about insects, which calls attention to the often-unseen population crawling and flying and swimming around us. Having grown up on a farm, I developed a love of ladybeetles and June bugs playing in the fields and woods around our house. Naturally, I was alarmed when I learned about Colony Collapse Disorder and how pesticides containing neonicitoids (banned in Europe and recently in Eugene, Oregon) are killing honeybees and other species of pollinators. I am responding by paying homage to the creatures that contribute billions of dollars each year to our economy and the biodiversity of our planet.
The Orchid Mantis, or Hymenopus, stood out to me as a particularly rich metaphor waiting to be written. With its lavender raindrop eyes and gorgeously ominous mandibles, it illustrates to me how beauty is that truth John Keats promises is “all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” It is a harder lesson than we might think or want—especially for our children, which is why the context of the book needs to remain with the poem in the form of the epigraph.
I hope that some readers note the scientific name, which recalls my mind to the ancient fear of the female body, for it too has petals that can consume you or be consumed. There may be no greater risk than to be taken in by another, but how can we not? Love is a merger. This flower mimic understands the appeal and inevitable threat. It makes its living capitalizing on what others want, but who is to say the fly is good and the mantis bad? Humans can, but with a questionable ability to judge and bias when they decide. Our nature is entangled with theirs in the last line, as we are all bound up in each other’s fates, whether we realize it or not.
Amy Wright is the Nonfiction Editor of Zone 3 Press, the author of four chapbooks, and the recipient of a Peter Taylor fellowship for the Kenyon Review Writers’ Workshop. Her work appears in Bellingham Review, Brevity, Drunken Boat, Quarterly West, Southern Poetry Anthology (Volumes III and VI), Tupelo Quarterly, and is forthcoming in POOL and Kenyon Review.