I’ve been reading Paul Zweig, and responding to his poems with poems of my own. This is the nineteenth poem in the third (“Eternity’s Woods”) section of Zweig’s Selected and Last Poems, followed by my response. See here for details on this experiment in responsive reading. I’ll remove Zweig’s poems after a week or two to prevent egregious copyright infringement.
by Paul Zweig
This morning I thumbed the spray-can,
And they stumbled from the rafters,
From the cheap rippled glass of the kitchen pane […]
* * * *
Vacuuming the beetles
Hundreds of ladybugs huddle together
in clumps in the corners where wall
& ceiling meet. I point the black tube
like a magic wand, a reverse rifle,
& the beetles disappear with the briefest of rattles
down the vacuum’s plastic throat.
This is nothing like hunting, no meditative wait,
no tense silence or rush of adrenaline.
Snuffing out these house invaders, I feel nothing.
I am alone with the sound of the cleaner,
which cancels out every competing thought.
If there were sound in space, a star
would howl like this when it collapsed into itself:
detritus from the ceiling, meet the detritus from the floor.
Bright clot of color, flame,
here’s a sackful of dust in which to gutter.
The acrid stench of alarm pheromones
grows stronger & stronger, & my stomach heaves
with sudden nausea, the body’s impulse to rid
itself of itself,
starting with the most recent foreign matter.