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Imagining the Life of an Earwig

by Helen Hagemann

 

Leave a door open long enough

and an earwig will enter. The kitchen

is the most popular to travel in.

Among insects a decision is made

(those of different species)

not to touch or pass by in the hallway.

An ant and earwig might come together

and part, safe in the knowledge

that when one leaves another arrives.

It’s the past meeting the future

simultaneously.

Whichever direction an earwig goes,

it will be one fast step

from the swish of a dog’s tail,

or the pounce of a cat’s paw.

Outdoors, earwigs forage in drains, leaf litter.

They love the chemistry of winter air,

the heavy crash of rain, a blue sky when it stops.

Sometimes you find an earwig sleeping between

the sheets of the morning newspaper,

although a quick flap or roll

over discarded scraps

can be fatal.

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Crusader Beetle

by Helen Hagemann

 

She is not the Japanese beetle

who devastates rows of basil plants;

 

that brown and black fellow chomping

circles in your garden spaghetti herbs.

 

She is not elongated, black and lemon-tipped

like Soldier beetle who swarms in number

 

spring and summer; gardeners anxious they’re

plaguing Melbourne. Crusader beetle is not

 

bejeweled in topaz, emerald or sapphire

like Jewel beetle. Nor is she the roller

 

of poop like Dung beetle, ready to squeeze

her offspring inside (like famous Alexander

 

Beetle’s matchbox) reducing methane as she

dillies away on a cow pat in less than twenty-four

 

hours. No! Crusader beetle is neither of these,

but a “Joan of Arc” carrying her bannered symbol

 

on a bluish back. A cross in clear salute, as if

she is proud of her history, out there warring

 

against predators, her pink and grey feelers

tapping out miles travelled between home and

 

Acacia bloom, wing-pads blazoned with that

repellent X, proliferating Indonesia, the Indo-

Pacific, or at home, her hind femur and inner
teeth ready to slay Australia’s backyard weeds.

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Silverfish

by Helen Hagemann

Not as lucky as a Las Vegas dollar
nor as silver,
but if you look inside panelled rooms
there may be several silverfish
touring endlessly in the house of a miser
or in one of those 19th century cottages
where the rain soaks North Somerset,
bookshelves covered in trench coats.

You know that silverfish chew into glue,
plaster, paint, photos, sugar, coffee,
hair, carpet, clothing, dandruff,
book bindings and paper (and that’s
a lot to get through in a week!)

Imagine one slippery silverfish
in a musty library of a French poet
travelling through paragraphs of Reverdy,
John Donne, Simone De Beauvoir or Sartre,
his hunger moving toward simile and speech,
words curling into little white ropes
and lifting from the page,
one letter at a time.

 

 

 

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Questions about Wasps

by Helen Hagemann

Each morning, a wasp starts out as a lone traveller
heading into the garden, its hind legs dangling and
trailing in the wind. These moments are an eloquent

gesture of nature, the wasp on a journey into nectar,
jazzing up noisy wings, talkative as the bumble bee
already in the Fuchsia. There are many questions you

might want to ask, yet the only one you do know is
that wasps sting, especially late summer if you have
a fly swat or rolled newspaper in your hand.

Yet you’re curious about this eager garden traveller, like
a fly-in miner, flying out. Is he copying the tiger with
all those stripes on his back? Is he the bee’s rival, as he

hovers in mimicry? Is it to camouflage pincers in wax flowers
or to fool the bumble bee into thinking he is one of him?
And why does this busy wasp follow from petal to stamen

and stamen again, and not the other way around? What about
his paper-mache home, is that in the roof? Is he building
a colony of one hundred wasps, damaging the beams?

You guess that wasps are designed to make you think. So,
wondering about that loud buzzing noise as he backs out of
a bud, is he imitating the operatic bee who comes out singing?

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Praying Mantis

by Helen Hagemann

From inside the house
the praying mantis looks like

a caught twig, a small gesture
of wood rocking on wire.

Up close, it draws you in and
outdoors, its pencil-spine a cloudy

grey. Grey as the litany of squares
she hugs. The most interesting thing

is the way she carries her colours
to meld or disappear into fabric,

cottage wall, or branch. Tomorrow
she may be yellow, pink, or green

depending on the plot-size of garden
or unattended window, the parallel

lines of wire-mesh giving just the
slightest hint of stick, of leaf.