My cousin tells me about her new garden and the little commune of fuzzy spiders that lives there. How they follow her around with their glassy teddy bear eyes. Kind of adorable, kind of terrifying. Sometimes the resident black widow clashes with the wasp while she watches in awe. She says it could only end in one of three ways. Wasp stings black widow. Black widow traps wasp in silk and eats her head. Or they lay down their arms, decide it’s not worth the fight. Wasp flies away, black widow returns to her web. Such is nature. Such is life.
I wasn’t always afraid of bugs. I used to let ladybugs crawl up and down my fingers and build hotels for beetles out of leaves and twigs. I think I looked too long at their eyes, their limbs, their exoskeletons, and now I can’t stand to look anymore. But I’m open to being wrong. Do you think insects carry grief in their tiny bodies? All their loved ones dropping dead or squished flat or eaten by something impossibly gigantic. Do they hold bug funerals for those who have gone? Do you think insects need therapy? Is there a market for such things?
My cousin has been studying butterflies. She lies awake at night going down Wikipedia page rabbit holes. She shows me pictures. This one is a western pygmy blue. This one’s a swallowtail. This one even has a big snout. She's been googling monarch migration patterns. How they all know where to fly even if they’ve never been there before. The map is imprinted in their DNA. How they ache to leave home for a place they’ve only heard is greener than this.
My best friend goes to an entomology class to learn how to mount a bug to a frame, to spread its wings in all its iridescent beauty. She didn’t know that the small rigid body doesn’t want to move that way. It fights, and it bends, and it breaks in many places. She studies their faces, beautiful and hideous even in death, and wants to cry.
Google search: are insects capable of love? when their best friend is accidentally taken away in the Doritos bag of a traveling human, does it make them sad? can insects dream? do they feel fear in the face of imminent danger? does it rise like a heat in the middle of their thorax? do they feel how utterly small they are in the midst of this great and terrible world? does it matter?
Emily, I dreamt you up. I prayed for you
on hands and knees like I invented praying,
like I even knew how. I love your big feet
and your frizzy hair. I love your yellowed
sea turtle heart. Emily, I’m so sorry
for who I’ve been. We were born on different
planets, and this is how I survived mine. I’d pull
the leaves over my body. I’d burrow into the
earth and I’d cry loudly. They didn’t look at me
when I made myself small. They didn’t touch me
when I hid. In bathtubs and closets and washing
machines. Emily, can I ever say how sorry I am?
I guess I spent so long resenting you. You who
can stomp up the stairs and slam the door. You
who can speak even when not spoken to, when
my own vocal chords were crushed in fists. Your
singing voice all volume, no pitch. My
chatterbox, my firecracker. Emily, I love you. I
love nothing more than you and I don’t say it
enough. Sometimes I forget to be brave.
Sometimes I close my eyes and pretend I’m a
glittering fish soaking in the sunlight. And
wherever I look, you’re there too. Emily, you’re
my favorite thing this sorry world has ever spit
out. Will you save a place for me at your table?
Can I ever make it up to you?
I’m a different person at 8 am.
The light is still on beneath the
crack in the door. My fingers
tingly. I pop my brain into the
blender and slurp it up with
some honey and greek yogurt. It
has a nice consistency. An
interesting flavor. I give myself
little treats just for
waking up in the morning. I swim
in dresses stitched to know my
skin. I feed myself grapes and
cubes of cheese like
I’m my own lover. Affirmation: I
will not drive my car off the ramp
connecting the 101 and the I-17. I
stroll through parking lots like
I’ve got all the time in the world,
saying, You should see the other guy.
Sometimes I’m still 13 and falling
asleep on my friend’s trampoline
until Ursa Minor swallowed me
whole. Until I opened my eyes
and drowned in a sea of stars and
ultramarine. But mostly I’m here
and I’m applying blush on the tip
of my nose with my pinky. I
promise I’m awake. I swear
I’m paying attention.
Wanda Deglane is a poet and therapist from Glendale, Arizona. She is the author of Melancholia (VA Press, 2021) and other books.