Two Poems by Christine M. Du Bois







No one asks the caterpillar.
Survival has selected her destiny
long before she swallows
her first lush, trembling leaf–
sending her, impelling her
to commit herself
even eagerly
to the tiny cage of her chrysalis.

No one asks the caterpillar.
Imprisoned in his pupa,
he secretes enzymes
expressly to demolish
his own tissues.
Engineering his own destruction,
does he suffer?
Does he struggle
as he dissolves his very self?

No one can ask the caterpillar,
for only the blueprint
for an imagined butterfly
survives such chemical violence.
Now the caterpillar is liquid
nourishment for cells,
spreading, coordinating, fashioning,
splitting the skin of innocence,
surfacing beyond ferocity.

No one would ask the caterpillar,
was it worth it?
This butterfly self
will only survive
a few short weeks.
Was it worth
evolution’s long wandering?
Was it worth the sacrifice,
the effort, the loss?

No one asks the caterpillar.
Instead, they ask their besotted eyes,
drunk with winged rainbows;
and they ask the blossoms,
seductive in velvet and
dripping with pollen;
and they ask all creation:
is it worth it?
And they savor the barbarous, glorious answer.



Little lemon custards
with wispy strands of crystallized sugar;
or vases of chocolate mousse;
or red-velvet cookies.
Shouldn’t I rejoice in you
as if I were a baker?
Golden larch needles in autumn;
Or oak leaves fallen, browned;
or sugar maples, red with satisfaction.
Shouldn’t I revere you
as if you were a forest?
Your textured ridges —
couldn’t you be madeleines?
or rolling hillocks?
Your shapely symmetry –
couldn’t you be shields?
or Grecian urns?
You are a wonder of evolution, of cleverness, of art —
Couldn’t I love you?
My soul is passionately quarrelsome.
(She is stubborn about loving.)
She always asks such questions.
My mind answers –quite firmly–
there is a limit.
These are, after all,
bed bugs.”

Christine M. Du Bois is an anthropologist of immigration, race relations, and food cultures.  She has published three non-fiction books, Images of West Indian Immigrants in Mass Media (LFB Scholarly, 2004), The World of Soy (University of IL Press,2008), and The Story of Soy (Reaktion Press, 2018). She lives in a hotbed of election happenings, near Philadelphia, where apparently bad things happen.

Image by Carmelo Peciña from Madrid, España – 24-6-2017-Abedular-de-Mojonavalle-confinado-2-Web, CC BY-SA 2.0,

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