Rhona McAdam

Tent Caterpillars

All the long spring

they’ve been hatching:

black worms, numerous

and immaterial;

spinning tents

in the branches

to house communal appetite,

falling from their shrouds

in long black drops.

Growing into their skin

and gilding bristle,

until, lions at last,

they bask on tree limbs

in the heat of noon,

emerging from torpor

in the cooling air.

We swear we hear them

whiskering up the walls,

their thousand fingers

caressing our roofs

and chimney-pots.

Their soft black patience

lingering on our windows,

watching us eat.

Raking their hunger

along leaf-lines,

carving as they feed

the tale of their bodies’ garden,

swelling with the season,

and one day

leafing like autumn wings.


On the lid of the wintering box

the pollen cake is food for birds.

The hive, empty, shines among

the flowers, nectar flowing

at last after this longest winter.

Nosema, you said, had weakened them,

their grooming dance a difficult

scene to watch, played over and again

like a mass neurosis, while you waited

for a window in the freezing days

to administer the drench you’d hoped

was not too late.

But by then, their larders full

to dripping, they'd lost the strength

to round those complicated flights

and return to their humming world.

One day you found the queen, alone

searching in vain for her retinue

her future unlaid, her kingdom undone.



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© Copyright, 2015, Rhona McAdam.
All Rights Reserved.