Kissing Bug

This entry is part 8 of 12 in the series Bestiary


Rhodnius prolixus

The dry season ends
with an abrupt deluge.
We run for a three-
walled hut at the edge
of a pasture, crowd in
under the tiled roof
until someone spots
the kissing bugs, vectors
of Chagas disease,
crouched in a crack
in the adobe, distinctive
patterning like a miniature
African mask with abstract
features & a net for teeth,
the real face little more
than a syringe. I come
close for a better look
& they back up slowly,
legs bent, poised
as prizefighters. And
knowing their fondness
for human blood
sucked from the thin skin
of lips & eyelids,
unwilling to find out
if they only prey
on sleepers, we decide
instead to brave the rain
& pitch camp a hundred
yards off. That night,
sleep is elusive:
a plague of frogs has just
emerged from estivation,
their temporary coffins
dissolved into mud
& primordial lust. I stand
in the darkness listening
to that thunder of need,
pulling my unfiltered
cigarette’s cherry
almost to my lips.

Boqueron, Honduras, 1995

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9 Replies to “Kissing Bug”

  1. Oh Dave, this is going to be a gem of a book. Just been to look at the ‘body’ of work, mounting up nicely now. Nothing there that’s not enormously inspirational to one who draws. (Or cuts lino-blocks. You do know I’m planning the images as relief prints don’t you? Really inkily impressed into the paper. Would love to see the whole thing , text as well, digging deep into the paper in the way that only printing from blocks and letterpress can achieve. Lovely to run the fingertips over. Maybe deckle-edged hand-made paper, handsomely textured in any raking light, and a cover with grosgrain ribbons to fasten, title stamped along the spine in a silvery pewter, the boards lined in papers block-printed with nautilus shells. Mmmm. I think I need to do this soon!)

    So many good things in the above, not least

    ‘a plague of frogs has just
    emerged from estivation,
    their temporary coffins
    dissolved into mud
    & primordial lust. ‘

    That rewards on so many levels. If I were an actor I would just go around all morning reciting it to anyone who’d listen. The meaning and the construction are so pleasurable to play with, the sounds… vowels and consonants… beautifully arranged in the complex miracle that is language. And the last line makes me smile with sheer, unalloyed delight.

    1. Clive, I’m really pleased that you like these poems so well, and I love your conception of the book. How many more poems would you like? I know you originally proposed something quite small, but now that this poem breaks so dramatically with the pattern previously established of focusing solely on the creature, I think I’ll have to write at least half a dozen more to restore balance. Of course, you wouldn’t necessarily have to include every poem in the series, either.

      1. Don’t laugh too hard…I missed the comma in the italicized line at the end…. I thought that someone named “Boqueron Honduras” wrote it in 1995! Note to self: Increase font size on page. lol

        Seriously…this is another favourite.

        1. Sounds like someone needs a new prescription. :)

          I self-published a chapbook of Honduran poems (both my own, touristic poems, and a selection of poems by Hondurans, translated with Steve’s help) in 1996, but as you can imagine I’m not terribly fond of those poems now. This one is completely new, though I did mention those frogs in an earlier piece. I’ve also inadvertently fictionalized, telescoping two days into one: the frogs didn’t start calling until our second night at that campsite. Fortunately, I didn’t check my journal until after drafting the poem! Sometimes a faulty memory is a great asset.

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