Spring 2006: Issue 79

Nina Ellen Riggs

I’ve been left alone on my third wedding anniversary

until you return to my stoop with your payload,

a radiant caterpillar gripped in your mouth, clinging

all along your belly. At first I thought it might be

attacking you. You dove loud and low, almost hopped,

as if trying to shake it off. Those million legs

kept flipping you. Yesterday I watched you push against

each other on the steps until tumbling into a spider’s web.

While you thrashed and freed yourself, the caterpillar fell

limp, maybe knowing to save energy for some fragile version


of the afterlife. And today when you hum in from the river,

I can see right away the caterpillar is finally dead, although

you are still wrapped in full-body embrace. I forgive this

deception: this morning I allowed a fly to crawl the length

of my leg because I wanted to be touched, and a perfect

stillness sometimes feels like something’s coming.


The two of you make a remarkable creature, your glossy body

and violently blue belt, that corpse a flush berth beneath.

In fusion, you have altered each other, and my heart,

a nucleus, splits and splits. Its next punch could be its burst.


With four of your legs, you draw the weight you carry close,

a final cradle, and—bomber that you are—you spread

two dangerous wings, lift off for the river. Wasp,

we are not simple vessels. We are blistering atoms seeking

to be cracked, our bodies expanding into a cloud.