Hornworm: Autumn Lamentation

Since that first morning when I crawled
Into the world, a naked grubby thing,
And found the world unkind,
My dearest faith has been that this
Is but a trial: I shall be changed.
In my imaginings I have already spent
My brooding winter underground,
Unfolded silky powdered wings, and climbed
Into the air, free as a puff of cloud
To sail over the steaming fields,
Alighting anywhere I pleased,
Thrusting into deep tubular flowers.

It is not so: there may be nectar
In those cups, but not for me.
All day, all night, I carry on my back
Embedded in my flesh, two rows
Of little white cocoons,
So neatly stacked
They look like eggs in a crate.
And I am eaten half away.

If I can gather strength enough
I’ll try to burrow under a stone
And spin myself a purse
In which to sleep away the cold;
Though when the sun kisses the earth
Again, I know I won’t be there.
Instead, out of my chrysalis
Will break, like robbers from a tomb,
A swarm of parasitic flies,
Leaving my wasted husk behind.

Sir, you with the red snippers
In your hand, hovering over me,
Casting your shadow, I greet you,
Whether you come as an angel of death
Or of mercy. But tell me,
Before you choose to slice me in two:
Who can understand the ways
Of the Great Worm in the Sky?

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Hornworm: Autumn Lamentation