The preying mantis in the living room
has lost a fore-claw. He has been here for
two days now. And it may be loneliness—
as I keep house, keep up appearances,
cleanly and self-solicitous, eating salads—
as if I were important to myself
in your absence—it may be loneliness,
or the lost claw, or else my weariness
of the lamp’s mosquitoes, but I find I like him.
That blank, triangular, revolving head;
the eyes, so pupilled and so horrible
(they always make me momentarily
infer intelligence, alert, demented—
and then the recoil to a greater horror,
that zero touched when likeness makes us reach
too far): These all have fallen to their truth,
become familiar. The lamp prints his thin shadow
now on the wall, the books, and now the chair-arm,
and I don’t mind.
And it is mostly the claw
I think, the lost fore-claw: For now, you see,
he is in disrepair without resort.
My mind trembles before a brink I will not
imagine—neither surgery nor friendship . . .
And he will not flinch, but sit and wait
for the unwary mosquito fat with blood
to rip and not be able to hold on to
and set spinning lazily to the far floor.
© Jack Butler