Wasps, Spiders, and My Poem “Opportunity”
May 22, 2014
This week’s prompt at 52, the poetry group I joined this year to challenge me to write a poem each week during the year, is about insects.
As Jo Bell writes in her introduction to the prompt, “Insects buzz and flutter and sting the air around us.
“They have us outnumbered, and they will outlast us. Insects thrive in every evolutionary niche – from the bluebottle, living on excrement and unpopular in the kitchen, to the Wandering Violin Mantis (yes, really – watch this to see it and its curious friends).”
As readers of my poetry know, observations in nature are a major subject of mine, especially birds. Whether the moths and butterflies featured in my poem, “The Postlude, or How I Became a Poet,” or the mining bees that open, “Redbud & Pitbull,” or the cecropia moth that is or isn’t the subject of my poem, “Summer Love,” insects are also not strangers to my poetry lens.
“Opportunity,” which appears in my book FALLOW FIELD, was originally published in the journal Blueline. It was prompted by a scene I witnessed in The Nature Conservancy’s Adirondacks office in Keene, New York, in the 1990s.
The poem centers around an interaction between an insect (wasp) and an arachnid (spider). Spiders are among the most remarkable predators on the planet. The spider featured in the poem was a web-hunting spider, a form of hunting that requires delicacy, building skills, and not a small amount of patience. (For more on how such spiders catch their prey, check out this illustrated description.)
Here is my poem, “Opportunity”:
A wasp wrestles all day
with the false freedom
of a window pane.
Scaling the glass, then slipping
down, buzzing the cracked paint
of the old window frame.
As if thrumming wings faster
will pull it closer to the blossom,
just beyond its reach.
So determined in its struggle
to get in, to wrest pollen from
the exotic flower on the other side.
A spider sets its dinner table
in the corner of the pane—
–Scott Edward Anderson