Lynn Domina: "Creeping Things"




Cradled in cracked bark, three hundred eggs

wait a few hours longer, guarded by a female

thornbug, her erect spine striped red and sharp

enough to sever a jay’s claw or puncture a scurrying

squirrel’s paw. She sucks sap like many true bugs,

the generic name inaccurately applied to grasshoppers

or wasps or cockroaches or beetles, the scarab for instance,

sometimes sheathed with resplendent gold or metallic red,

which buries large balls of dung

to protect eggs laid inside. God knows

some creatures wince in distaste at this

description. Still, God grins at ingenuity, as at the sustenance

a thornbug derives from sap, so many insects surviving

on bits of leaf or wood shavings or stray husks. Though not all—

the social wasp, rare carnivore, contrives a nest

from chewed fiber, then feeds its larvae chewed insects,

sterile females tucking bites of meat between wormy lips.

Evenings and mornings, God listens for the buzz and chirp

and raucous whirr of wings rubbed together, invitations

to multiply over the earth, for the bass and tenor of the bullfrog’s

burp, every species of frog and toad a carnivore, their sticky tongues

uncurling after flies and termites, gaping mouths lunging

after snakes and mice. God wavers among favorites:

the poison-dart frog for its blue skin, the oriental fire-bellied toad

for its bright green back, its orange underside,

the holy cross toad with its bloated body, stumpy legs,

named by a lonely priest failing in converts, Darwin’s frog

sharing childcare, the female dumping

a clump of eggs before the male, who broods them

in his vocal sacs until forty tadpoles slip from his mouth,

not entirely unlike the midwife toad, whose male

during mating girds his hind legs with strings of eggs,

eventually easing the offspring into still pools, far enough,

one hopes, from an eel or snake whose too-obvious digestion

elicits judgment on its hunger, the lump of rabbit

or frog or mouse squeezed through its legless torso, the snake

condemned therefore to crawl in dust. Every mortal creature

who desires a peaceful death still harbors terror

of being swallowed whole and alive like Jonah, symbol

of all who flee God, as the snake

despite its brilliant colors, patterns, its skin

at least as beautiful as the creature it swallows,

becomes symbol of all who strive to outwit

the mind who imagined them

and their language, its noun death, its infinitive to live.



Lynn Domina is the author of a collection of poetry, Corporal Works, as well as the editor of Poets on the Psalms. Her poetry has also appeared in various literary journals, including Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, New England Review, and New York Quarterly.