A Theory of Vermin

1.

Lie down beneath white-blossomed tree
and look skyward past its flowering branches

Black gnats cross paths above
Layers upon layers         minute, whirring
Blotting out pure blue

2.

We have always known the bird’s beauty
We welcome its song as cold winter turns gold

More difficult to see grace
in a cockroach scuttling on rice paper walls
or belly up on floor three of a six-floor walk up

3.

Cicada saint of Japan sleeps on drugstore bench
white do-rag tied tight, slide-on sandals, sideways satchel

Cicada preacher approaches us in Roppongi playground
and warns of oncoming storm
which he senses through cranial pain

“I had a headache before the Tohoku quake,”
he tells us, carefully lifting a lady cicada
from her leafy perch

Having been removed from mating call crossfire
she seems content to sit silently on his shoulder

4.

That summer, we saw bugs everywhere: emerging from
cracks connecting cement slabs, roving in the nighttime sink

A woodlouse appeared between knots on a sheet of metal
I put my boot down, but the vermin acted fast
squirming into its own knot, exoskeleton borne with pride

Not so different, them and me—
flaring up then
burning out in
the summer heat.