I hear your approach, your kamikaze whine
and dine only inches away. Little fly,
your articulated landing is so soft
nary a thud announces your arrival. Yet here you are
perched on my forearm, poised proboscis
about to strike.
How ugly you are, but elegant in the way
of ergonomic design—a wisp of wing,
tiny compound eyes, blackish-green
like over-ripened Hass avocados, a belly
that bloats up to four times its size and those legs!
One would think they were the straws
inserted to sup.
Diminutive disease-bearer, how comprehensive
your system: human, animal, fowl,
any hemoglobin pulsing vein is quarry
to the crosshairs of your mouthparts.
What a congenial host I must be,
bare skin glistening in a fade
of evening light, an extraordinary table
plighted for your blood meal. And what
an inconsiderate minx you’ve turned out to be,
stealing away after being splendidly feted,
your “thank you” a ruddy pustule
left to itch and swell.
—Gaye McKenney (Shelby County)
This poem is from The Bell Jar Glass (Finishing Line Press, 2012).
Gaye McKenney lives and writes in south-central Indiana. Her poem “Demolition” was awarded Honorable Mention in 2009 by the North American Review James Hearst Poetry Prize, Robert Pinsky, judge. Her poem “Twelve” was awarded Honorable Mention in 2010 by New Millennial Writings, Nikki Giovanni, judge. The Bell Jar Glass, her first chapbook, was published in 2012 by Finishing Line Press.
Poetry Prompt: Ode to Something Unpleasant
Sing the attributes of some pest or poisonous plant or moldy left-over in the fridge—anything unlikely to be praised. Address the subject directly with “you,” but add some kennings, figurative expressions that replace a name or noun, like “disease-bearer” replaces “mosquito.” The epic poem Beowulf contains a multitude of kennings, for instance, “gold-giver” for king and “cave-guard” for dragon.
Indiana Humanities is celebrating National Poetry Month by sharing a poem and prompt every day in April. Indiana Poet Laureate Shari Wagner selected these poems and wrote the prompts.