Mantis

There is an amazement shimmering under the dusty crust of reality

A burning radiance too fierce

An exuberance too bright to bear with eyes wide open all the time

A coiled snake of possibility, like RNA in viral capsids,

Like tangled proteins in albumin.

We look away. Life is too cruel. Too short.

It hardly registers our emotions about it before it goes on

Without us.

The praying mantis cleaning its foreclaws

Like a cat licking its fur:

But how does it know when to bite down, bite into

And when not?

With the same mandibles it devours

Butterfly flesh

Yet only whisks its own exterior.

A cat, too, can use its teeth to kill, to eat,

Or carry her kittens by the scruff of their necks.

How do we know how hard to hold our children

Safe from harm, or so tightly they may have to

Gnaw their own leg off to make their escape

From us, their mothers?

Watch the prey the praying mantis

Worships, it struggles to live, to get away

But meanwhile, just in case it does not,

Eggs, barrel-shaped, striped as ribbon candy,

Line up along the leaf

Expelled there, instinct-driven,

Butterfly mother doing all that is left, all that she can

For her barrel-shaped babies.

Exuberance and tragedy

Equally matched.

How can we suffer one without marking the other?