Do Lanternflies Bite or Sting
How does your body protect itself?
Once, I grew a pair of lanternfly wings
and spoke like a weed-whacker until
I managed to return to the safety of my coat room.
I feel sympathy for them—how, weaponless
the lanternflies slip from roof to tree trunk
to factory to winter. Wings become postage stamps.
I used to believe I could learn enough self-defense
to escape all semblance of lanternfly in me.
Bought a pocket knife and told every horse
“I bite—I bite.” I had only one tooth left
and, like a wasp, only one sting for my life.
Is it better to sundial or to pass the pie tin?
To swarm without malice is simply to gather.
Haven’t you wanted to collect without defense?
We are always asking, “How will this hurt me?”
instead “How will I hurt this?”
The lanternflies search each other’s bodies
in the hopes of finding a single dagger.
Instead end up counting spots until dusk.
Home Remedies for Lanternflies
Have you tried becoming a different species? Have you really given mammals a try yet? Once, I
counted the chambers of my heart and found thousands upon thousands. I’m terrified that when I
die, I’ll come back as something with less access to language and I’ll swarm with wordless
poems. Or, maybe, humans have the most limited language of any species. I might be a
lanternfly and finally have a word for wanting to want or for finding yourself in the same pattern
of self-harm only with a new tool. Do you have trouble sleeping at night? I am asked by a
survey. I lie and say, “No.” I stay up past the lanternflies. I think probably chickadees have
several words for “always.” Do poets make language or does language make the poet?
Sometimes, alone, when there’s no one to be embarrassed in front of, I will say my favorite
words aloud over and over until they transform. “Mauve” becomes “moth” becomes “moths.”
Who would want to get rid of them? I need my lanternflies? What is a remedy for language? For
the company of strangers? This is not Jeopardy, I am telling you I want to live like a planet does.
Less aware. Lavishing. Newly-named. Un-terrified. Left the hoard so long ago I don’t remember
what it meant to hatch. Oh, but how I want to.
Stop the Spread
There are instructions online for how to prevent
lanternflies from infecting surrounding counties
but, here, they are a way of life. Laugh and crush
bouquets of wings. Count lanternflies on the way
to the deli. Speak lanternfly. Love lanternfly. Farm lanternfly.
Dress up as the lanternfly. Swallow lanternfly.
Keep one alive between each rib. Rashes blooming
into continents on my forearms. I cannot stop myself
from lanternflying: verb meaning to exist ardently
despite not belonging. How did I become so contagious?
Spores, like fireworks, floated from my gills.
It is summer time again. Drying meat in the smoke house.
The smell of evergreen muscles. Mayflies and June bugs.
A signal from a neighboring roof. Birds insinuating
more birds. Then, soon, mating calls. Asking
a fire to slow down. There are only three houses
between us and flames. Men holding water guns.
Weeds making families in gravel around the driveway.
This is the diary of a lanternflying life. One moon
knotted with the next. Cycle and serpent. Orbiting
the rare species and the endangered. Who isn’t
endangered anymore. Crows laughing like garbage.
Soon there will be even more.
Robin Gow is a trans and queer poet and YA/MG author from rural Pennsylvania.