Skip to main content

To a Cockchafer





A large brown European beetle which flies at dusk and is a destructive plant pest, both as an adult and a larva.

That’s it.

Of course, this is no more than a dictionary definition, but it takes no note of the striking appearance, intriguing life cycle and the curious story of our relationship.

 

 

I should like two sets of feathers

fanned like ferns on either side,

bracken clock, to tell me, show me

what is where and how and when

beyond my flat-head senses,

little kittywitch.

And those eyes,

bulging black, that you borrowed

from a mouse, mitchamador

show you so much more.



My humbuz, it was almost worth

those years spent underground,

the miserable history of DDT,

near extinction, even once

found guilty by a court of law,

condemned by senseless men.

 

Tom beedel, big boy beetle, June-bug

how much more you feel and sense

as you wave your ferny fronds,

those anemone antennae,

how much more, dear snartlegog

than I with none.

 

 

Perhaps that’s one reason why the cockchafer – what a word! – has been given so many names. I particularly like its proper – I suppose I mean by that, its scientific – name, Melolontha melolontha (not even mentioned in my poem) with its unusual musical sound and repetition.

That latin harks back to the notorious occasion in 1320 when an Avignon court commanded cockchafers to withdraw to a designated area. Not surprisingly, they failed to comply.

Not that anyone needed a court of law to persuade them to kill this beetle whose voracious grubs eats plant roots for up to five years. Modern farmers have found more effective ways than the sentence of a court to reduce their numbers, pesticides almost extinguishing the cockchafer.

But with reduction in their use, cockchafer numbers are rising again. 

I’m sure I wouldn’t want my potato harvest to be destroyed by a beetle. And I don’t intend to wax sentimental over a bug.  But with those marvellous antennae and huge eyes, one can’t help but wonder about the sensory input this creature enjoys, which we’ll never understand, however many names we give it.

Which is really all this little poem’s trying to say.

And with that, this beautiful beetle, whatever you care to call it, can fly away.

 




 


 


 

 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A plague on all these houses

It's a great poem, Lowell's For the Union Dead. I only recently came across it - at least, that's what I thought - but it's been grunting (I choose the word advisedly) away in my head ever since, especially that fourth verse. Behind their cage, yellow dinosaur steam shovels were grunting as they cropped up tone of mush and grass to gouge their underworld garage. It took a little while for me to realise why. Before (I thought) I'd read it, I wrote a poem about the new housing estates springing up round our little town. I was thinking about the various creatures that had lived on the field that was to be covered with houses - sheep primarily - and then those that were to follow. The first were, well, a sort of dinosaur. Here's my second verse: At first it was the one-armed monsters, set free within their caged arena to trundle round, and gently paw the ground, then pile up mounds of earth accompanied by Lego men. I was pleased

Departure

  Departure     Here’s a poem about what’s not here, well not here any longer – distinctive life in a particular form, now gone.   And how, aware of this inevitability, I felt and what I would have liked to have done.     Departure Standing here, I scan the sky a silent sky – uncut, intact. They're gone, those screaming slicers leaving an occasional ordinary bird along with a local gull or two and earth-bound me, still here who had a need to wish them well – to say goodbye, adieu, safe flights to wherever it is they had to go. But it's too late, and I am left now wanting to describe to you to you yourself, no longer here, the presence of this absence and the silence that's been left.   The poetic convention is that when celebrating/commemorating a person’s memory, you  head the poem ‘i.m.’, followed by their initials. But although it is In Memoriam. somehow I didn’t want to put ‘i.m. S.W.’ up there under the title, I think this is because the poem is about absence – wha

The Three Hares

  The Three Hares We continue on our way running, running, running around held together tip to tip so I can hear what she can hear as well as her. And the other follows me in front of her – we are joined up by our ears so we follow, lead and follow running, running, running around we continue on our way. Running, running, running around – no cause for worry – what's to come has already been. The future's past – watch us here – we're going nowhere – the last is first and first is last. Our present moment sees us still although we seem to race – running, running, running around we continue. On our way running, running, running around hearing your persistent questions – why do you keep on asking? We cannot tell you any more. May you share your senses and find soft silence at your centre which is so close, while you go on running, running, running around. The turning of the year, with the various thoughts about the past and the future that c