I pulled the tiny mantis from the spider web:
barely a fingernail of stillness and fight.
The strands, delicate and deadly as time,
wrapped forelegs as if in actual prayer.
It’s not pleading, and I’m not asking
for recognition as I remove the silk
And shred the spider’s web.
We build whole faiths on this foundation,
That something larger than us can disentangle
us from reality. When nothing comes
to remove us from dis-ease, our hope suspends
us till we can’t move. But I can act, not as god
but as antibody, I can act because I’m of this world,
enough death within me to save a life
and save what would be killed without killing
what would kill. I don’t claim to be fair
as I leave it on the porch rail to finish freeing itself.
Whole faiths have fallen on less.
Some things spread, and some things don’t.
We light the match to burn it. Our mistake
was believing we were loved before we felt
the love, then believe we need to earn it.
Early Summer Evening
After the rain I walk around the peony plants.
The praying mantises stand on the leaves,
Dozens of them, like vacationers in a hotel
On their balconies. Looking out at a place
They have never seen before but will master.
Nobody so much at glances at the plants
Once the flowers are gone but I do.
To me it feels like I am growing them.
They are my flowers. Maybe God feels like this:
He cannot save a single one of us from what
Will prey on us or what we ourselves will maim
Or kill but he can watch us change and grow.
Inside the house there are no stars. You can’t
Throw a wish far enough away that its ricochet
Will not eventually get you. In the dark, after
The rain, the candles like mute trees.
In the silence, after the brief flare of sulfur,
You can hear fire chew a matchstick.
Introduction to those beneath the flowers
The ceiling fan on a May night
A watch that lost its hours
The year was a broken bone
And its slow mending
Like the peonies after being cut
To the ground rise up
And when no one is looking
Distracted by the growth and green
And the pink and white and red petals littering
The sidewalk and the heat
Rising suddenly they are there the praying
mantis and her thousand sisters
Each poised like a timeless statue
On a leaf that didn’t exist a month before
The ants, which carry everything away
Will not approach the mantis on my steps.
They drift away like metal filings
From the wrong pole of death’s magnet.
They will carry everything away
But not this green stillness.
It is no less patient in emptiness.
It does not have the posture
Of dead things ready for the ground
To reclaim it. Nothing with wings
Descends to dissemble it.
Its power, like a prayer flag,
Is as a vessel separate
From intention. I leave it on the step
And walk, as the needs of the day
Assemble like ants around me.