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Lee Ann Roripaugh
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Things I Would Do for You

Let me gather together a radiant cache
of jewel beetles for you—lapis lazuli blue
speckled with red and white; shimmering
green hammer-plated with yellow metal;
dapper copper pinstriping; a softly polished
celadon like glowing, apple-green jade; blue-
green lacquer lipsticked with an opalescent
hot-pink swirl; and the ones that seem cast
in the lush, buttery luster of 24-carat gold.
I will string them together with small, bright
seeds and make a necklace to warm your skin
like a dapple of sunlight burnishing
the cool, pale shadows between your breasts.

I will hand-raise mantises—feed them caterpillars,
crickets, butterflies and bumblebees, keep
them heated, mist twice daily to make moist
fog, jungled steam—so I can bring you a bouquet
which, from a distance, will look like a glamorous
arrangement of rare blooms. But come closer,
and you will see quizzically swiveling heads,
black pinpricked eyes, sway of antennae—
perhaps the Yellow Flower Mantid’s fussy rustling
of rosebud-yellow wings notched in maroon;
or the Spiny Flower Mantid’s pink intricate frills
and spikes, violet eyes, and giant spiraled eye-
spot on leafy wings. Maybe the Devil’s Flower
will raise its delicate bisque thorns and stripes
to you; and, of course, there will be the upcurled,
lavender-striped body, pointed cone-shaped eyes,
and pink-petaled legs of the Malaysian Orchid.

I could find a Yucatan Ma-kech Beetle, with
a thick and waxy back that can be carved
with an awl. I will carefully pierce the elytra
with tiny holes and notches, then set the wing
cases with gems—peridot, topaz, amethyst
and rhodolite—so you may keep it as a pet
on a sterling-silver chain pinned to your lapel.
It will toss out razor-bright prisms in slivered,
rainbowed shards of color, a jewel-crusted
living brooch clutching the promontory of your
collarbone, mesmerized by the powerful swish,
pump, and fuzz of your heart keeping time
below like a jazz bass-line, thickly vibrating,
humming and strumming deep inside your chest.

I will make you a feast of wasps, flash-fried
in sesame—oil lacquering satin-banded bodies,
glazing iridescent wings—tumble them in sweet
crumbles of brown sugar and soy sauce, served
over steaming white rice. I could garnish
the plate with a ring of crisply vigilant, deep-
fried cicadas—art deco wings spread open
as if ready to take flight—spritzed with a light
spray of ponzu sauce, for something crunchy
and nutty to nibble on. I will search through
mulberry groves for plump silk-worm pupae
to stir-fry into sangi for you, carefully
slicing out the midgut, tossing them in the wok
with hot oil until they sizzle. Naturally salty,
so no seasonings necessary—creamy, slick
and decadent with fat, soft and chewy like large,
ripe figs. Or perhaps, if you would rather,
I would capture dragonflies, boil them with
ginger, garlic, chili pepper, onions, and coconut
milk, serve them with an herbed coconut soup
drizzled with red ant eggs, like caviar. As an
appetizer, a dozen large and rare forest-dwelling
bumblebees, steamed with kaffir, lime leaf,
shallots, and in lieu of dessert wine, afterwards,
I could offer you live ants fattened with peach
nectar. They taste like almonds and honey.

And when it’s night, I’ll find a Jamaican Click
Beetle, also known as “Cucujo,” and hold it up
to your book like a small flashlight, so you can
read by the bioluminescent spots on its thorax,
and when you’re finished, I’ll toss it into the air
so we can watch it zoom around the room
like a shooting star. I will draw you a hot bath,
pour steaming ladles of clover-steeped royal jelly
over your shoulders, then call in a flock
of Striped Blue Crow butterflies to dust you
with their yellow tail brushes, gauzing your skin
with a light shivering of scented scales, like
perfumed talcum. And for music, I’ll assemble
an orchestra to perform for you: first, a female
Oak Brush Cricket, who drums in syncopated
rhythms on leaves at night with her elaborately
ornate feet; cicadas with their tymbals,
which they ripple like thunderous metal sheets;
an assortment of male moths clattering
the castanets built into their wings; for violins,
the stridulation of crickets; and finally, a water
boatman, who makes music with his penis,
as if it were a flute. Together, they’ll unspool
their seductive nocturnes to beguile and ease
you into the dark velvety creases of sleep.

I know that I am strange, and poor, and prone
to daydreams, melancholy, and compulsions,
that all I have to offer are these crumpled balls
of paper scattered across my desk, these words
obsessively embroidered together with insects
used as sequins, beads, twinkly bits of decoration.
But perhaps, in the silky gray light of dusk,
they might look something like the nuptial gifts
of Balloon Flies, with their live tiny spiders
and aphids wrapped in intricately woven, iridescent
skeins of silk, white, shimmering balloons
tightly clutched in the feet of the flies, sparkling
enticingly in the half-light like a paparazzi
of minuscule flashbulbs exploding in the dusk
during their aerial mating dances. Perhaps
you might be moved to pick one up and unwrap it,
and while you were busy with crackling paper,
smoothing out wrinkles, and reading, I might
quietly come up behind you, stroke the small
of your back, slide my arms around your waist
and hold you, my mouth in the nape of your neck.

 

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