Two months after my husband’s death in California, I moved to Mexico. Once there, my days were filled with the completion of my house and the buying of appliances, furniture, and familiarizing myself with the language, processes, mores and customs of Mexico. Although at first I knew no one in my new country of choice, my life quickly filled with the observation of the strange plants, animals and insects that appeared one by one to claim my wonder. After 14 years, they still do! This poem was written during my first month in my new house. As stories do, this story was just repeated in a slightly different version yesterday. You can find that story HERE, but the poem below is fourteen years old.
Katydid? Just What Did Katy Do?
If you were in a salad or a stir fry, I would have taken you for a pea pod,
crunched you right down with the next forkful.
But instead you stand in bright green relief against the gray trash can lid,
stroking your proboscis with your curious hand shaped like a snake’s tongue.
Your six legs in graduated pairs: long, longer, longest
bend constantly in 360 degree angles
as each moves in turn to your anemone mouth
which plays each like a piano
trying to stroke music from the keys.
As hand after foot after foot
vanishes into your mouth––
front flap like an apron hanging down––
I wonder if you are perhaps feeding
on nourishment too minuscule for human eyes.
Your broad chest expands and deflates like a bellows.
Praying mantis, grasshopper, leaf-hopper, pea pod––
Whatever it is you most resemble––none have your talent or your wing power.
Your alien protuberant eyes like small yellow beebees.
Now trapped in my jar, you define your glass prison with leg after leg, like a mime.
Colorful strayer from a world of green,
what do you make of this white world of mine?
I have stolen you for a closer look, and for this short hour,
You have enthralled me with your alien looks.
So much I’ve been told of everything here in this new land strange to me,
each from a different point of view,
that now I feel the need to look at everything more closely for myself.
But you, in a jar, perhaps not knowing you are observed,
farm each foot in turn for something so infinitesimal,
then drum drum the glass.
“What is there?” you seem to ask.
“What is this new world?”
Nothing to nourish you here.
I sit staring in at you.
That artichoke mouth doesn’t look made for singing,
opening like petals of a flower as you put your foot in it.
Like an old man pushing himself backwards
from piece of furniture to piece of furniture,
you limp around the glass on geriatric legs and padded feet.
We move to the terrace,
where I put you down
On the leaf of a geranium
in the crumbling pot up on the wall.
Putting your heels down first,
you test each new leaf for it’s ability to support or give.
Each hand and foot is like a tiny forked penis hanging from green testicles–
the penis one forked finger, mining space
then gripping the leaf, fore and aft as your
moves over it like a slice of watermelon
held the wrong way––
not side to side like a calendar illustration,
but front to back, even bites
increasing its inside arc.
In five minutes, one-fourth of the leaf is gone.
and you move to another
like a child with a cookie in each hand.
My ink run out, I leave you
And when I come back, you are invisible
against the potted geranium that I have set you down in.
Your mouth like a different insect
reaches tendril arms out for the leaf edge,
takes sharp bites–like a leaf cutter ant.
The white front flap of your mouth
sweeping the diminishing leaf edge like a vacuum cleaner.
One-quarter of the leaf gone in five minutes.
You fly to the tree branch next to me, startling me,
as finally we stand eye-to-eye at the same level.
You stand more clearly defined,
for you are the yellow green of geranium,
not the dark green of this tree.
Here you are more blended in shape than color
As you change your diet––
eating not the leaves, but stems of leaves––
you rock on a hobby horse of legs.
Your chest like bagpipes
expands and releases,
rippling like an air balloon.
Now that so many of your mysteries have been revealed,
I solve your only secret left––
the origin of your song.
You play “Las Mananitas” for your lady,
with your compadres joining for the chorus,
one wing your violin,
the other your bow.
My night newly passionless,
fills with the sounds of yours.
To hear Katydids, you can go HERE. And for a fascinating closeup video of what I experienced first hand above, go HERE.
See if you can distinguish “my” katydid from his background in these pictures.