Harlequin ladybird

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall


Video link.

Part videopoem, part music video. The music is by the Polish composer efiel on Jamendo.com, who made it available for noncommercial remix with attribution under the same Creative Commons licence, so this whole video is also so licenced (BY-NC-SA). This is the acoustic version of his otherwise electronic single, Home, with the first instrumental break repeated twice to give me time to get the reading in. The singer (as we learn in the notes for his album 2, which is also available on Last.fm) is Joanna Szwej. The creatures in the video are the Asian or harlequin ladybird beetle, Harmonia axyridis, filmed swarming one of the windows in my house yesterday afternoon. Here’s the poem.

Harlequin Ladybird

The ladybird
is a hard pill,
a dose of red medicine.
Her dogged way
of walking &
the gleam on
her elytra suggest
a certain brittleness,
a gift for sudden
flights of rage.
You wouldn’t think
such a small mouth
could pack
such a painful bite.
Like everyone,
I found her cute
at first, until I realized
there were many more
versions of her, &
they had infiltrated
every crack. Now
she lets herself in
whenever she wants,
only to spend all
her time at
the window.
The pungent scent
of her defensive spray
permeates the house.
What is she afraid of?
I begin to suspect
that those delicate
underwings are really
an airmail letter
containing the last,
unwary words of someone
who perished in
a house fire, the way
she keeps unfolding
& refolding them —
two sheets of onionskin
tucked against a small,
bad heart.

A thorough revision of this poem.