On the west side of our house, my father planted
a row of sunflowers, their heads towered
over the fence, and made a cheery sight-
their dark, round faces tucked inside
those yellow bonnets nodding at passersby.
In the wind, they swayed
every which way, a line of excited
teenagers at a rock concert.
Under their shade I moved on hands and knees,
poking around for grasshoppers, pulling
off their wings, dropping them into pickle
jars with leaves and bottle caps of water. A
city of glass jars built on my dresser
noisy with crawlers I thought were better off with me
than in the yard fending off predators like my brothers
who crushed their bodies with riotous joy and
observed the horror of death for amusement.
But with me, the millipedes, chameleons, beetles
became my children, not my prisoners.
Sprawled under the tall flowers, half awake,
half asleep, I let them scamper over my face--
how sweet the tickle of hairy legs and soft wings,
the feel of damp, cool skins. At night awaiting sleep,
the lightening bugs turned their tiny bulbs
on and off, my lizards moved the pebbles and I
wondered if any of my crickets lay upside down
again, their little legs wiggling in the dark,
and if I wasn't too tired, I turned on my flashlight