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                                       The Caterpillar


I saw a caterpillar today. In the parking lot.

I had a plastic bag of garbage in my hand—trash

From my apartment. Carried it at arm’s length, from the smell.

It overflowed with stench and waste, degrading human waste—

Like cardboard cartons for frozen food, and decaying plastic plates,

And partially eaten store-bought apple pie (now feeding fungi),

And empty cereal boxes (Frosted Flakes, Cheerios), 

And plastic forks and spoons and cups and cartons of skim milk.

All rotten, curdled, fly-encrusted. So I approached the dumpster.

While deftly dodging stationary cars (which wasn’t easy:

I had to run while carrying this huge and bulging bag,

Arms quivering with the strain), I looked down at the crunching gravel,

Just for a second, and saw a tiny spot of green—light green.

But not just “green,” drab green; it looked almost iridescent,

A little neon light that flashed my mind back to the coral

Reef off Australia’s coast, where I had scuba-dived one time.

I dropped the bag. Knelt down to get a closer look. It looked

So isolated there, atop a mound of pebbles! Squirming,

Its head high in the air, blindly squirming helplessly

—Yet hopefully. It hoped for help, apparently. So I

Lent it my index finger, which it gratefully accepted.

The pile of trash beside me beckoned with its pungency,

But I ignored it; the half-inch turquoise avatar of trust

And steady confidence worming its way across my skin

Was more deserving of attention. For it made me think....

I sat upon the grass—it was quiet all around;

Not even cars passed on the street—and watched the caterpillar

Contract, expand, contract, expand, so slowlypatiently

Across my hand. “I could end you,” I whispered, “but I won’t...”


I placed it on a blade of grass. I had to go to class.

The trash, and its unsavory scent, still beckoned me, so

I did my duty. My dumpsterial duty. –But the blade 

Of grass I’d favored quivered as the caterpillar crawled...

And so I left them, quivering in quiet harmony.

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