One day at dusk the termites in unison exploded
from every wooded surface,
each stump and dead tree
marked by droves of soft-headed insects,
emerging into air
and making their first flights.
Some flew and fell to the ground,
wings in a tangle.
Others were snatched from midair
by a parade of evening birds,
juncos, tanagers, sapsuckers,
gathering food that would become
the wings of their own young.
As the termites floated through darkening skies,
I wondered how it felt to emerge from the tree stump,
to unfold those thinly webbed wings,
to crawl outside of darkness and the familiar
world of damp wood, to row through the air
with the movements of muscles unused.
And I wondered how I felt entering this life,
If after being washed and wiped dry and placed
into my mother’s arms, those first few breaths
were anything like flight.
Originally published in Askew, Issue 16
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