The Black and Orange Dead
A cluster of ladybirds makes a detail
from a cob of charred or blighted corn.
they enamel any surface
containing a matchhead’s reflected flare and death.
I part the leaves of the radish
and find carnage:
ladybirds, front legs
working into the sides of their heads
as if trying to prise tiny black helmets off,
the visors jammed with aphids
wet ash has rendered useless.
Opening their wings, there are wings
an overcoat’s tails
flipped back to reveal
the tails of another, smaller coat.
I take a ladybird from a leaf, imagining myself
as I did picking green and orange cicadas
like loud, vibrating fruit from trees when young:
held aloft by a giant,
until the fluids broke from my eyes.
I hold it, because holding is what humans feel
they need to do to living things.
When I open my hand, it ambles
like a freckled naturalist
over the moist topography of my palm,
and I remember
a concert in a tree-lined square in Granada
at dusk: a woman fisting the silver
bellflower of a French horn; swallows
becoming their own shadows;
a ladybird negotiating the hairs on my arm.
Have you ever pressed the rim of an acorn’s cap
until the rim collapsed?
Perhaps it was
the last note from a clarinet
returning from the walls of a Gothic cathedral,
or swallows, angling for insects
like semi-quavers over the trees
that had distracted me . . .
I’d squeezed the beetle between finger and thumb –
my wet skin smelled of decay.
Here in the garden, vegetables
are being mined by green grubs
one stage from white, erratic flight.
The old-fashioned spray pump I steer
like the design for a blade-and-wingless aircraft
come to life,
is blowing pyrethrum
like burnt fuel over everything.
The grubs rise into death,
globes of milky fluid at the ends of their mouths;
the aphids mobilise, then fuse
into a wart-like mound, their sucking bodies
outnumbering the black and orange dead.