Adirondack Sketches: September, 2000
Alone she cleans the cabin, packs her bag,
takes a last dip and shampoo in the lake.
A soapy cloud dissipates in the water.
A week of voluntary solitude is at end,
a week to wash her heart.
Email, voicemail await.
The wind is from the east — bad sign.
In the car a green caterpillar starts crawling up her leg.
At a stop sign, she tries to catch him, to set him free, outside,
but he panics and squirms out of her fingers to drop
to shadowy spots unseen. Him. He.
So she drives, reflecting upon, smiling at
her now-conscious assumption:
All caterpillars are male; that's why
they're so stupid and single-minded.
All butterflies are female; that's why
they're so nice.
The solitude healed. She can almost laugh.
Again he wiggles up her leg, the same leg, to her thigh.
Again she tries to grab him but he leaps —
how does a caterpillar leap?
— to the floor.
Either he will be crushed by her feet,
sucked up a Hertz vacuum cleaner,
or he will starve in this sterile Mazda.
She's rushing to catch a boat.
She cannot save him
if he won't be saved.
A hurricane is coming, dark sky.
The ride across Lake Champlain is wild.
Waves slam the shuddering ferry.
Water sprays the windshield.
Wind whips the puddles on the deck
while she searches the car from within, doors closed
to the weather, contorting like a back-seat lover
to peer under floormats. He can't be found.
She reaches Burlington Airport with time, barely,
to escape at the edge of the black storm.
A couple weeks ago, she came upon
a plump brown caterpillar
who was humping across the little lane
in front of her house.
She tried to guide him with the edge of
her flip-flop. He was stubborn.
A car approached.
Reflexively, obediently, she stepped aside.
He was popped
— splattered —
under the tire of a black Mercedes driven by a callow young man.
Now hunched in flight, middle seat, no leg room,
ignoring some bullshit movie
she clutches her belly. In her eyes appear
all things fragile, winged, unborn.
She could have stopped the car. Both cars:
pulled the Mazda to the side of the road
until she found that little beast, Adirondack refugee,
before the squalls trapped her — and he — inside
that metal cage. She could have stood
her ground against the black Mercedes
until the hairy worm could shimmy to the other side.
Hands clasped on the seat tray,
she prays: Little caterpillars,
please keep creeping.
whatever you're seeking.