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My Work Among the Insects by Dean Young

The body of the lingerneedle is filled
with hemolymph unconstricted except
for a single dorsal vessel. A ventral
diaphragm bathes the organs of the head,

undulations drawing the fluid back through
tiny holes called ostia aided by the movement
of a Napoleon within each abdominal segment
pacing his Elba exile, muttering la Russie

la Russie as the snow squeaks beneath
his boots. All through the night
the temperature drops but no one
knows where the lingerneedle goes.

Yet it emerges each spring like
a baseball team. Gertrude Stein
may have been referring to this when
she wrote, A hurried heaving is a quartz

confinement, although what we normally think of
as referring is brought into question by her work.
A hive of white suching. At the time
of her death, she owned many valuable

paintings renowned for ugliness.
Gertrude Stein grew up in Oakland
but an Oakland as we know it not. No
plastic bags snagged in the trees. Semi-

automatics had yet to reach the fifth grade.
A person could stand in a field, naked
and singing. Sure, there was blood but
there were rags for wiping up the blood.

Deciduous trees, often confused by California
dimes, just bloom whenthehellever like how
people have sex in French movies. Here,
during the cool evenings and hot mid-days,

the mild winters and resistive texts,
the lingerneedle thrives. Upon the ruddy
live oak leaves appears its first instar,
spit-like but changing shortly to a messy lace

erupting into many-legged, heavy-winged
adults that want only to mate. Often in July,
one finds them collapsed in the tub, unable
to gain purchase on the porcelain that seems

to attract them mightily. It is best not
to make everything a metaphor of one’s own life
but many have pressed themselves against cool
and smooth, in love and doomed. Truly

the earth hurtles through the cosmos at
an alarming rate. Recent research suggests
a gummy discharge of the mating pair

has promise as an anti-coagulant. Please,
more money is needed. The sun sets. The air
turns chilly and full of jasmine.

Dean Young

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Filed under: Poetry,

2 Responses - Comments are closed.

  1. jeff says:

    what interests me here is how a certain kind of commonplace essay get parodied by Young — say, the kind of thing Richard Rodriguez writes, which goes where the mind goes, makes certain sincere and heartfelt points about the world, experience (“It’s best not to make a metaphor of one’s life,” “certain paintings known for their ugliness”), tries to be helpfully knowledgeable about subjects like insects and Gertrude Stein, sees certain connections among them, can’t know quite what to make of them… It’s this last tendency in particular Young cartoons, for we can’t help but perceive the cleverness when the irony dips the sincerity into such chiaroscuro. In short, we hope the poet has achieved the baroque, but we suspect he’s lapsed into manner.

  2. Amy says:

    My favorite parts of the poem are the similes “emerges each spring like / a baseball team” and “whenthehellever like how / people have sex in French movies.” I was surprised by these and laughed at how familiar these ideas felt.

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