a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
No more than twelve-point typeface,
a body the size of a W, or less,
there is still a fierceness
among these words. Aristotle
pulled back his hand
when he found these bugs
among scrolls, parchment
unfurled to skitters and pincers.
It could be letters rearranging,
sounds and syllables. It could be
a threat of war, fathers weeping
over the bodies of children,
mothers searching the burning
frames of their homes. Hidden
somewhere on a dark shelf
is a book holding paragraph
after paragraph of history.
It has that musty smell of age
like the volumes of encyclopedias
tucked into a corner
in my grandparents’ basement.
One tome had pictures of people
in a battle-scarred land, the edges
of pages yellowed and raggedy,
chewed upon by an unseen pest.
Maybe a pseudoscorpion
raised its claw the size of a comma
to defeat these mites that came
to destroy the past. Yesterday,
I read that there are 1.4 billion
bugs to every single person,
some so small they might as well be
dust illuminated during an autumn
afternoon by rays of sunlight slanting
through a window. Someone, I hope,
is there with a book opened
to ancient philosophy, sigma
crawling across the page,
a predator in the language.
Do you confer with hornets
for a glimpse of the future?
I’ve been told to expect a hard winter
when they build high, the gray globes,
their homes, clinging to upper branches.
They look like papier-mâché human hearts
among leaves that are destined to fall,
dangling and decaying with the season.
Or do you just feel your way along the sidewalk
measuring sunlight and shadows?
And do they color your body, brown
and black for prophecy?
What witchery do you employ?
I thought my great grandmother magical
when she held you and declared we make ready
for storms, for the ashen weight of clouds
to hang from branches and stems that grow
wild and tangled across the firmament.
The stars, she said, were the signals of bugs,
see how they flicker their messages.
She spoke to fireflies and yellowjackets,
to June bugs and cicadas. She said
snow’s going to come down in swarms,
because you told her so, those thick, dark
stripes across your body. Ants predict rain.
Crickets sing of good days to come. And bees
don’t roam far if winds are on the way.
I never knew you sealed yourself into
a bristly cocoon, waited out the weather.
I never knew you emerged as a tiger moth.
I hope one day to while away the season,
my body transforming into something
with wings. I tell you it will be
a grave and grievous winter.
David B. Prather is the author of We Were Birds (Main Street Rag Publishing, 2019). He has two other poetry collections forthcoming: Shouting at an Empty House (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions, 2023), and Bending Light with Bare Hands (Fernwood Press, 2024). His work has appeared in many journals, including Prairie Schooner, The Comstock Review, Potomac Review, etc. He lives in Parkersburg, WV.