I never dreamed...
My wife spotted five voracious little larvae,
after we had given up to look for snakes instead.
Tiny cylindrical eating machines,
banded yellow, black and white.
They start their feast with their own egg shells,
then move on the everlasting dessert of bitter milkweed,
pausing only to shed skins, make more room.
We kept them in our homemade caterpillar condominium,
filled with plenty of milkweed fodder which they methodically munched
like flat corn on the cob, from edge to center,
dropping chlorophyll packed pellets from one end while stuffing the other,
fattening from rice grain size to fully large as my little finger.
Do butterflies yearn for their caterpillar youth,
incessant chewing, swallowing, peristalsis, excretion?
For existence as walking alimentary canals,
concerned only with elementary existence?
Do they fondly remember milestones of each skin split,
dropped to land on green manure piles below?
Or that last agony of that last skin,
as they hung suspended on silk tethers,
thrashing convulsively, till free
green chrysalis jewels shone, bearing flecks of gold?
At work I hear a child crying,
a five year old who swears better than most grownups,
sometimes singing obscenities in her little girl voice.
When she’s finished kicking, biting, scratching,
she cries for Mommy like any little girl.
Most days she runs to give me a big hug.
I wonder what she’ll be when it is time
for her last agonized molting?
I wonder what I’ll be?
In my caterpillar youth I never dreamed
of such vast skies so far above my munching.
Chrysalis cases turn transparent before hatching,
showing splendid promises of veined wings.
With wife and kids I’ve seen such transformations.
Before such things I never dreamed
I’d own the strength and hope
to make the skies my home.
~ Wry Welwood
Originally published in A Victor’s Psalm by Color Wheel Press, which was republished in Illumination on Medium, 2021.
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