Poem of the Week

Pale Evening Dun

Rob Schlegel

The sculptor pointed to her favorite mayfly—
Yellow abdomen the length of my nail, wings
Like translucent sails—it was alive
For a day. She'd pinned hundreds
To foam-core boards. For years we corresponded
In lengths of twine; a secret code
She insisted was improving her art.
Mostly it was confusing, especially at first
Back when the insects in her collection didn't exist
And I hadn't experienced the competing sorrows
Of parenthood. What can I do

To ensure that my children are just? I said.
The sculptor suggested I'd gone too long
Without being moved by the surprise shape
Of a non-human sentient being.

Two months later I received from her estate
A framed display of a dozen mayflies.

That night I described the video to my son.
And that, I said, is why we protest.
Not all police are bad, he said—

The screen door slammed. It's responsible of you
To talk to him, Kisha said, but next time
Make a plan. I wore a mask
To pick up my son's equations. His teacher
Handed me a seedling. Sweet
Basil. He should rub these leaves between his fingers
And smell them, she said. Tell him
I miss him. She looked exhausted

Like she might be married to a poet using news.
On my way home I stopped beside a stream.
A mayfly landed on my knee. My first impulse
Was to capture it, show it to my son.
I showed him two headlines. One was a lie.

Rob Schlegel is the author of four books, including In the Tree Where the Double Sex Sleeps, which won the 2019 Iowa Poetry Prize, and Childcare. He teaches writing at Whitman College.
Originally published:
October 27, 2021


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