“When I look out the window and say green, I mean sea green,/I mean moss green, I mean gray, I mean pale and also/electrically flecked with white and I mean green/in its damp way of glowing off a leaf.” – Kathryn Nuernberger, “Translations”
God gave her a long body and feathery antennae. Her stretchy-thin legs sense a change in the weather a few seconds into the future. Here she rests, against the cold-smooth glass of window, the foreground of everyone’s background.
A swath of street, a clump of house, a sprout of tree hover behind her.
Her breath comes through the spiracles in her thorax, her blood cradles the organs, her heart dots the medial line along her back. She carries her ears on her limbs. She hears you breathing.
“. . . I remember/the Jains, the gentle swoosh/of their brooms on a dirt path/trodden by children and goats, each/thoughtful step taken in peril of/an ant’s life or a fat grub hidden/under a stick.” – Tess Gallagher, “Linoleum”
Terrance had been flying all night. Pollen dusts his hairy body. This little garden, in need of pollination, would feed him for another night’s flight, its yellow, red and orange flowers open-throated to him. With his antannae he senses the odor of a female moth, though many miles away. He has no home but the short-lived cocoon of his larval stage. He is common; for every ten of his kind in the world there is only one butterfly.
More than ninety percent of nesting birds feed on the plump bodies of his kind. We won’t speak of bats’ feeding patterns, as Terrance is a sensitive being. For now, he clings, open-winged, to the window glass view of this little flower garden before taking a run at life for another day.
Agnes had looked like any other of her kind on hatching. But it wasn’t long before the problem was apparent. Her antennae were extraordinarily long.
This posed a problem at family gatherings, as she could never find a seat that didn’t disaccommodate one or another of her family members. If it wasn’t Uncle Gus falling off the table, it was Aunt Grace floundering beneath the countertop. All because of Agnes’s long long antennae.
To avoid such accidents, she tried to keep her antennae organized. In her spare time she practiced aligning them perfectly together, like twin feelers, posed in an arcing curve that might float over the heads of nearby family members. In practice, alone, she got to where they managed well. But bring them into contact with others of her kind, and they wobbled here and there, distracted by this scent or that, and soon one of the younger family members, nieces or nephews, or even the elderly grands, would topple off, batted by the straying tips of Agnes’s antennae.
It does not help the social graces when you have sense organs on antennae five times as long as your entire body. When your ears are on your legs, you know instantly what the gossips are hissing about you.
Still, one has to make one’s way in the world. Agnes finally made do by perching always at the end of the line at family gatherings, on a table extension or a countertop corner. Her family learned to stay out of her way, especially the nieces and nephews, and the grands grew wily enough to evade Agnes’s faltering appendages. She liked it when they said it reminded them of the younger days of their clan.