Corydalidae cornutus

Otherwise known as the Dobsonfly,
flew to our failing lantern before
the hunchback moon could divert him.

His crisp cellophane wings crossed
as he staggered up and down the table
snookered by sputtering light.

A formidable drunk, three inches long
with segmented antennae and wangly
mandibles half the length of his body.

Predaceous, but not upon us,
the ancient creature clamped other
insects that bumbled into the lantern

while we sipped wine and plucked apart
the fried trout hooked that day when
they blundered up for the Dobsonfly lures.

One must always regard the god
in disguise as a guest at one’s table.
So we let him stay though skanky.

Later I read that he is the most
primitive of all insects
that lumbers through metamorphosis.

Even the small gods shift around enacting
their monstrous, wondrous urges.
And even now they bless our days.

Thanks be to hunger then, to summer’s end,
fish, and insects, to all the clumsy appetites
we can’t untangle from prayer.

I have worked for a while, in my poems, toward witness of some of the very smallest and even rejected or loathed creatures on earth, that is, insects, because since childhood I’ve felt awe and wonder for them. James Hillman once suggested that the things we despise the most in insects are the very things we cannot bear in ourselves – rapacity, proliferation, monstrosity. This projection has caused some of the greatest environmental damage in recent history through the use of pesticides that are largely responsible for bee colony collapse, as well as being responsible for great harm to all other creatures, including ourselves.

I believe that in attending to the small, we benefit the larger fabric of life. This poem is from a book-in-progress, Small Gods. It was previously published in a slightly different form by Connotation Press: An Online Artifact.

About the Author

Regina O’Melveny is a writer, teacher and assemblage artist whose award-winning poetry and prose have been anthologized and widely published in literary magazines such as The Bellingham Review, rattapallax, The Sun, The LA Weekly, Solo, The Wild Duck Review, and Connotation Press: An Online Artifact. Her long poem Fireflies won the Conflux Press Poetry Award and was published as an artist’s book designed by Tania Baban. Blue Wolves, a collection of poems with reproductions of her assemblages, won the Bright Hill Press poetry book award. Her novel The Book of Madness and Cures, was published by Little, Brown and Company, and was listed under “Time Passages: The Year’s Best Historical Fiction” for 2012 at She has taught writing at Marymount College, the Palos Verdes Art Center and South Coast Botanic Gardens, and lives with her husband in Rancho Palos Verdes.

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