He Called Them Locusts


SOCRATES: There is time enough.  And I believe that the locusts

chirruping after their manner in the heat of the sun over our heads

are talking to one another and looking down at us.  What would they say

if they saw that we, like the many, are not conversing, but slumbering

at mid-day, lulled by their voices, too indolent to think?


                                                Plato's Phaedrus


We break the back by bending it against

its natural clench and our pale palms earn

the meat under the hard carapaces;

The milk and honey in every forkful

is worth the pain.  It's graceless, this pulling


of muscle from the tail, but the chiton

leaves its hot freckles on the meat—that's how

you know it's good.  South of Chula Vista

we have constructed a wall of chain link

and barbed wire on a certain latitude


to prove that we take our rhetoric

seriously.  When we want cheap lobster

we drive through this wall, down a crumbling

coastline on asphalt with eroding shoulders

and ghost lines, passed buildings with rebar


rusting obscenely in the open air

like a compound fracture and already

we feel the tortilla dust and butter

on our chins.  Puerto Nuevo, a town

with six restaurants named Ortegas, is bare


in winter when the thin light leans off

the dime-like Pacific and the Mexicans

lay their prices down like palms before us

in the cankered street.  We pack our tongues firm

under the white meat and still have space


to talk of the people that pick our grapes

and fill our glasses with black hemispheres

of cabernet.  The man across from me

shakes his great head and discards a feeler.

We wait on his words as he breaks a shell


along its natural joint—separating

segments comes to us by way of a tired

atavism we' ve incorporated

into our own armor.  "Those creatures," he says,

"are a plague, and I don't mean the locusts."

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