Poem

Pairing Mantids

He has only one job to do. And she, with her hunger,

her need to feed the future without him by consuming him,

has a lot to get done before winter.

His head tilts slightly, like a sinner at communion,

like a teen expecting his first kiss to be like lightning.

Then his body starts to do the work it was built to do.

She turns toward him and wipes off his face.

He knows it’s all over, but his body keeps on, unknowing itself.

His is the kind of stupid happiness

you can only appreciate at a distance,

the kind you know cannot be as good as it looks.

Hers is the work of duty and a different devotion.

While he takes her from behind, she takes him

head first just like she took a yellow striped hornet

who would have taken her to his own hideaway,

just as she took the grasshopper who was tired of summer,

as she took the large green moth who had no mouth of its own.

She ignored those magnificent wings — just let them fall —

as she ignores the thrusting body that falls away from hers.

He dies two deaths at once, the deaths of love and of life.

But the moment between, the moment before it all ends,

is the moment of his glory and the beginning of her toil.

— Paul Jones

Paul Jones is the author of What the Welsh and Chinese Have in Common

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