Spider on the ceiling, legs evenly spread round,
I can’t help but wonder what keeps you ceiling-bound.
Have you little suction cups welded to each foot,
and if so, has nature adequately put
each one on this spider far above my bed
so it will not disconnect and land upon my head?
I woke up much earlier than usual today, and after I posted my poem and photos, I went back to bed. I closed my eyes for a short time, then opened them and stared fixedly at the ceiling above the bed. It was not fully light in the room, but in the diffused light from the curtains which form a sort of scrim in the room, I could see a black blotch on the ceiling right above me. Trying to figure out what it was, I scrunched my eyes up and eventually made out lines radiating out from the center. It finally occurred to me that this might be a spider. Further scrunching determined that it was, indeed, a delicate-looking spider perhaps an inch or two in diameter. It hasn’t moved in the half hour or so it has taken for me to write its laudatory poem, locate my camera, arrange for adequate lighting and camera settings, shoot its portrait and to get posted. It will probably still be there tonight. If so, its fame will probably be expanded with another poem. If I remember.
Best for Last
Just as I’m ready to ingest
the morsel I consider best
and so picked out from all the rest
to be my last bite, savored with zest—
last memory of this gourmet fest—
from north and south and east and west,
descends each winged little pest,
radared in on diabolical quest
as though invited at my behest.
They put my appetite to the test,
settling as though to the nest,
their hairy feet intimately pressed
upon that morsel that I loved best.
I wave my hand over them, lest
they eat too much, then I confess
I guiltily consume the rest.
The prompt today is pest.
This beach companion was fascinated by my Diet Coke. Pedro says this is proof that they actually do slip sugar into diet drinks here.
(Click once on first picture to enlarge photos, then click on right arrow to advance to next picture. When finished, click on X at top left of the page to return to this page.)
He ended up submerged, in spite of my best efforts to dissuade him from taking the icy dip. This called for pouring the coke and corpus onto the sand. In lieu of artificial respiration, I blew on him and from a seemingly comatose state, he came to, crawled away, and in time flew away. I wonder how many watery graves this fellow has escaped.
By tomorrow, all the pellets will be gone, carried away by these bearer ants–and hopefully, the ants will be gone, too.
Hormigas, by the way, is Spanish for Leafcutter Ants. (I didn’t want to give away the answer before the question was asked.) They are fascinating to watch, with their generals and slaves, double machete-weilding lumberjacks dropping pieces of leaves to the bearers below, tinier slave ants carrying many times their own weight, some ESP that causes swarms of ants to appear to help any ant who needs help over an obstacle or out of a hole. I could watch all day as bush after vine is depleted of leaves and flowers, but then–I’d have no bushes or flowers, so I resort to the little pellets that, carried back to the nest, with luck for me and no luck for the ants, will clear it out. Cruel nature either way.
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.
Change, Change, Change
For the fourteen years I’ve been in Mexico, a bright green caterpillar (actually, the larval stage of the hornworm at this stage) has invaded my Virginia Creeper vines. It wouldn’t be much of a problem except for the fact that they poop lots of black pellets about 1/2 inch in diameter directly onto my glass tabletop and all over the terrace floor. I can never see them against the green of the foliage, so three or four times a year, Pasiano is recruited to use his keen eye to discover them and relocate them to my houseless extra lot next door.
I think his/her little green tail looks like one of those little brushes that is used in place of floss or a toothpick to clean between teeth.
If we don’t catch them during the green stage, they begin to morph into a creatures you wouldn’t believe were stages of the same being.
This shot shows their size in relation to each other. The larger one is four or five inches long. Their heads look like the rolled part of an uninflated balloon and are translucent and polka dotted. The racing stripes add an extra flair in the littler guy whereas the larger one looks more sedate in his brown and white striped pale gray suit. Two different caterpillars or stages of the same creature? And, are they later stages of the green larva? If so, why is the one guy smaller? Questions, questions.
This is the next stage of worm that we found. By now, I have discovered that it is a Hornless Hornworm (Acemon Sphinx) and that they lose the little horn on their rear end (you can see the detail on the first green stage above) after their first molt and it is replaced on each of the subsequent larval stages with an eyespot that you can clearly see in the picture below.
That one eyespot on the tail end seemed spookier when I thought it was a cyclops eye on the head of the hornworm!
There is a rather long and unbelievable story that goes with this stage of the caterpillar that I will tell at a later time. In fact, this is the one hornworm that became my “mascota” (pet.)
The most interesting part of this story is what this caterpillar turns into. So far as I know, I’ve never seen the insect stage–perhaps because I am too insistent that Pasiano removes all the larva to relocate them. I have just this year discovered that they actually turn into hummingbird moths that are avid pollinators of many of the flowers I grow. They are also beautiful–often being mistaken for hummingbirds. I don’t think it is fair for me to download a picture of the moth, since all of the photos above were taken by me and if I had been more aware of anything other than my Virginia creeper, I would have known that it might be worth putting up with the worm poop to be able to see the hummingbird moth.
So hereafter, I vow that I will not relocate any more hornworm larva or caterpillars at any stage. And it may take another year, but I promise to take a picture of the first hummingbird moth that I see.