Despite drought, despite burning
restrictions, against advice to the contrary,
I clip the gauzy nursery of the tent
caterpillars from the black walnut branch,
rush it to the back yard fire pit,
torch the swaddling of newspaper
I’ve wrapped it in and watch its whitish
envelope melt and crisp in the flames,
watch with an enflamed part of myself
the inch-long baby caterpillars
squirming to escape the heat until
the fire utterly consumes them.
Later I ask myself why
the outsized rage at the sight
of a single infested branch. Google
advises drowning them in soapy water.
Why wasn’t that enough? I remember
caterpillars falling on my head in boyhood
summers, the revulsion, in truth the fear.
And here it has returned, infesting me
again, a shadowy crawling beneath
my cobwebby justification for the same
reckless arrogance smudging our air
from forests burning a half-continent away.
Thomas R. Smith