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Saturday, August 29, 2020


by Kelley White

The State tells us to kill them on sight.
Even the juveniles, for they will only mature
and breed in their hidden nests. They are
invasive. Not native to our country. They are
a threat to our Environment, our Agriculture,
our food supply, our Way of Life. Even our
trees! They will change the landscape of our
towns and cities forever if we fail to eliminate
them now. This Asian threat. And their noxious

Some counties are in quarantine because of them.
I know the bridge where they congregate
in the sun between our two cities. I watched
a young woman walk there with her children,
striking out in all directions. They offered
no resistance. The small blond daughter held
her mother’s hand while in the other she brandished
her own weapon. And the blue-eyed baby
in the stroller chortled.

My own granddaughter has learned at preschool
that they are Bad. She screamed when one tapped
on the car window. I assured her we were safe.
If I simply drove away it would fall behind;
it could not cling to us at even moderate speed.
And later, when one tapped against the windows
of the house I showed her that it could not creep in
even as it searched for cracks and crevices
and the dog kept up his fearful sentinel alarm.

Later, I through their encampment myself.
They silently avoided me, sidestepping me and
the red and crushed bodies of their fellows. I realized
that I could easily kill dozens, hundreds, depending
on my choice of weapon. I was annoyed by their skitting
hunched walk on narrow feet and the skinny knees
beneath their drab gray armor. I knew how satisfying
it would be to strike them down, but I did not want
to be a killer. They did not harm me directly.

After meeting for worship even the Quaker elders
debated the best ways to destroy them. Fire, poison,
suffocation; someone has spotted a preying
mantis devouring one alive. Some applaud,
but I have seen their vulnerable red bellies,
seen the beauty when they spread their wings
into their clumsy hopping flight. Pretty as any butterfly.
Lycorma delicatula. Spotted. Lantern. Fly.

Pediatrician Kelley White has worked in inner city Philadelphia and rural New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared in Exquisite Corpse, Rattle and JAMA. Her recent books are Toxic Environment (Boston Poet Press) and Two Birds in Flame (Beech River Books.) She received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant.