In celebration of today (June 7) being National June Bug Day, I’ll post a poem about their closest cousins, the much-maligned Japanese beetle. This poem first appeared in Pinesong 2016, and for it I will always thank my friend Mary Barnard for her advice on diction, pacing, and voice.
A Widow on Chester Street
Lucie Mae Moffitt cried, God help her she cursed, the family of Japanese beetles squatting on her red hibiscus tree.
Giddy, some even swung upside down like the clip-on earring she lost
on the Ferris wheel at the state fair in 1977.
From his glider Herman would’ve chuckled now as he chuckled then. No use crying
over spilt milk. Ministers think like that. Lucie Mae does not.
Neighbors peeked through jalousies as she whooshed three beetle traps down her clothesline. Might as well hand-deliver invitations, tsk-tsked Mary Alice.
A day later someone dubbed Edna’s Rose of Sharon the Ghost of Sharon. But nobody snickered when the beetles doilied Duncan’s flowering crab.
Next they crocheted Abigail’s grape vine and just for kicks they chewed up and spit
out Bobby Joe’s pittosporum. Peter’s purple leaf plum? Pulverized.
Over a pot of tizzy tea, Lucie Mae fretted until her pin curls unraveled. A beetle
bungeed into her chinoiserie cup. She stood. Time to peel off the lace gloves.
Leave well enough alone, the glider would’ve uttered. But by then Lucie
was whirring toward Lane’s Nursery in her navy blue Lincoln Continental.
Deliver to Chester Street! she commanded, snagging the last five hibiscus trees.
Card? Indeed. Courtesy of Lucie Mae Moffitt.
Too far? Lucie Mae wondered over a cup of mea culpa tea. For once the glider didn’t speak. No use, she half-chuckled half-trembled, crying over spilt milk.
Two days later she woke to the put-it-here, put-it-there of Eastern blue birds as
plump as pin cushions. Northern cardinals and chickadees sashayed in next.
Avian occupancy soared and people migrated to Chester Street to swoon over the
double-decker nest boxes. No binoculars needed. Umbrellas advised.
If the sky falls, Lucie Mae said to The Herald reporter, a boy far too young to
know what it meant to let go, better just hold up your hands.