The caterpillar tents start appearing
just as the leaves burst their buds,
as if someone with a white marker
were doodling in every crotch of limbs.
My dad goes into the hospital to have
a large, non-malignant tumor
removed from his lower spine,
& I picture a white knot swelling
with caterpillars of pain.
A day after the surgery he’s taking
his first steps without it, this thing
that has made almost every position
of repose impossible for weeks,
forcing him to stand or to walk
slowly for hours each day.
Now it has been thoroughly cast out
through the surgeon’s art,
excised, exposed: bulb that burned
but gave off no light.
Sexless flower. Empty tent.
Be gone. Be gone. Be gone.
Here in the woods where my father returns
in a couple days to resume his walking —
this time to heal rather than assuage —
flashes of scarlet as a tanager
snatches gnats & caterpillars from
the not quite fully opened leaves,
singing a line of his hoarse song
between each mouthful of wings,
each mouthful of spines.