The Beetles Are Eating

Zilka Joseph

Zilka Joseph

The Beetles Are Eating was selected as part of MSU Library Short Edition's call for submissions on the theme of "Home," in coordination with the MSU Broad Art Museum's exhibition "Where We Dwell." Zilka Joseph's work has appeared in Poetry, Poetry Daily, Kenyon Review Online, MQR, Asia Literary Review, and in RESPECT: An Anthology of Detroit Music Poetry, 101 Jewish Poems for the Third Millennium, and The Kali Project. Her work has been nominated several times for the Pushcart, the PEN America award, and Best of the Net. Sharp Blue Search of Flame, her book of poems, was a Foreword Indies Book Award finalist. Her third chapbook Sparrows and Dust won a Notable Best Indie Award. In Our Beautiful Bones, her new book, has been nominated for a PEN America award. Her work has been influenced by Eastern and Western cultures and her Bene Israel roots. She teaches creative writing in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and is an editor, manuscript coach, and a mentor to writers in her community.

the beetles are eating
the pine trees further
and further north
filling the bark with larvae
resin drips onto the ground
and moths drain
the birch trees dry

how hollow is the oak tree now
when even the great horned owl has fled
to who-who-who knows where
or does she hide in plain sight
telling us she is just a ghost
waiting to return
to earth

and the female gold finch who is drawn to my windows
everyday this summer will not stop
tap-tapping knocking
knocking at first this window then that
east, south, west
then she hangs on the hummingbird feeder
or on the screen and peers and peers
head moving side to side
up and down
contemplating nothingness sometimes
for minutes on end through the glass door
flaps up and down trying to find
just one crack just one break
though the glass
that holds her back
from this world
she's at it again

breaking my heart
with her persistence

I want to say I'll let you in
how will you survive in here
free spirit return to your open sky
even though the heat grows
and spreads higher up the latitudes
and desert temperatures
are now in cities
shaved clean of trees
and birds

and this year's scorcher summer
closed schools in India
for two weeks
unheard of when I grew up there
but the sun is getting hotter everywhere
and crows around the world know it
and the sparrows
and the pistachio-green Diwali flies
that descended on us in October
when I was a child
have turned pale as dust
clinging to faded walls
and gardens that once knew

and here the insects that travel north
to once cooler climes
once inch at a time
now begin to call it home

we are heading towards the poles
all of us
eating our way up slowly
or faster than we think
northward here
southward there
east or west
how hungrily we look
at Antarctica
the moon

barren-ness is what we create

oh little one, you who look
at me with innocent eyes
we are looking
through glass walls
wondering what's out there

will there be anything left at all

we have to repair the earth
every waking moment

child, if we do not shake the blind
kings from their thrones

where humankind is headed
is a hot burning place

keep your cool
hold my hand
on our journey we will
all need shade food water

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