Three quarters through the journey of my lifeI found myself within a forest dark,
The straight path lost like an abandoned knife.
Dislodging creepers, prodding crumbled bark,I pondered fecund August’s many hordes
Of stiff-legged insects blatant at their work:
Some like the beetle, cuirassed and with swords,Some like the spider with its hard-jawed bite,
Others like larvae dangling on their cords,
Mucously-deporting in the pool-brightSumps of sun. Querying the dusty gloom
I failed to notice a mosquito’s flight:
It settled slyly like a flake of loamOn my hand’s back and, slung between its legs,
Innocuously squatted down to groom.
Distracted by the pigeons’ cooing brags,Moments later a needle-crafty sting
Alerted me the gnat was drilling dregs
From my itchy skin. I slapped – it tried to cling –I swept it off and wandered on. Next day
That bite had swollen to a hot red grin;
By day’s end it had wrapped a purple-greyWadding of throbbing flesh from nail to wrist,
Immobilising fingers as they lay
Enfeebled in my lap. Three days that fist,A heat-stuffed bladder gone obesely fat,
Was useless till the venom flushed and I could twist
My joints once more. I thought: no insect thatSo suffered would survive: ichneumon wasps
Which paralyse their fated prey so that
Their larvae, hatched, may eat the living hostsAre emblematic of the natural world,
Its blank-eyed deafness to the screams and gasps
Of plundered creatures. When compassion’s furledLike dandelions on a glooming day
And lions do not nestle down with curled
Wet lambs, where is the love which wipes awayAll tears and fashions ploughshares out of swords?
That ground of being which insists this clay
Maintain existence like unnumbered gourdsToppling helplessly on a barren slope,
Described but not explained by blindfold words –
Is it brute necessity devoid of hope,A surd, an aimless dream within a dream,
Or is it meaning’s meaning, truth not trope?