Jesse Harris + Alexander Williams

so long to be young


You’d stood shocked – hipshot with one leg cocked at the knee, one hand jammed in-

to your oblique, digging four fingers under and up the lowermost rib as you did

when furious, anxious, or needed to pee bad enough.

You couldn’t believe what I’d done. How could I have done – we’re so done, and on,

and on. In visible twisted ways you felt like you’d won and loved it.

I saw it: those corner-of-your-lip twitches before you’d look away

out the small square front-room window as though expecting the mailman vaguely,

or some friend, say – Maggie, maybe.


Your note was a shot to the back of the throat, sap from spines of unknown Arizonan cacti (I thirsted always but never quite knew what for).

I found en route to the green milk:

I’m leaving –

don’t dig up

dead horses

it said, pink post-it stuck to the fridge, scrawled in red, hasty italicized, hand.

Did you mean the wild ones you heard about in South Dakota, born with no tails and long bluish leonine manes, the nocturnal ones the Indian who ran the ranch you worked on called nektosha? You said he’d said nektosha were seen in the light of the moon and heard in calms before thunderstorms alone, for then they breathed the loudest.

The man was Potawatomi. And you were like what? – twenty-three.

It took you so long to be young, and longer to begin to believe.


The shape of the shadow of the lampshade cast on the ceiling by the flickering bite

of candlelight is light-bulb-like, hot-air balloon, or pear. I get up to blow out the flame –

but even in darkness the form is still there, as sunk suns keep glowing nights that seem like they’ll never end less and less by the moment, or hooves that no longer gallop and tromp and kick up dust in Dakotan dry air…

and it used to be you who blew out the candle – just superstition you said. But I knew what you meant: your visions of all of it – everything – burning,

well they took the wind right out of you.

Five Chants in One


1 Ode to Scarab Beetle

Most resourceful labourer,

roller and feeder of sometimes hirsute-with-hay

near-perfect spheres of waste made of pre-eaten earth,

other times the colour of clay, cocoa bean, hazelnut.

Predictably, people make jokes

(a pick-up line of yours: this stool taken?)

but everyone willing to look sees

plain honest sufficiency in and of

your very unbeauty and holy wholeness of self;

Egyptians thought you embodied

the sun god Ra who created himself from nothing.

2  Brief Technical Clarification/Abstraction

Only one of eleven entomological taxonomical Orders of insect is bona-fide Bug:

the Order Hemiptera, e.g. the Stink Bug, Cicada, a.k.a. the Half-Wings,

i.e. those-creepy crawlies-of-the-Order-at least-nominally-related to the pterodactyl.

They alone are True Bugs, the ones who measure up to their name like men long to.

3 Germane Linguistical Context

the etymology of entomology: from the Greek entomon for insect

the etymology of insect: from the Latin insectare, to cut into or -up

4  Characteristics of One True Bug

Take the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, for instance.

A True Bug belonging to the Pentatomidae family

(penta- for the pentagon shield-like shape of body),

the BMSB self-defends and olfactory-attacks

with scent glands that spray from the dorsal surface

of the abdomen and underside of the thorax.

In seasonal behaviour, similar to multicoloured Asian Lady beetle;

both attracted to people’s houses on warm autumn days,

especially following first frost. To keep them out,

caulk the cracks around your doors and windows.

This technique also keeps out one in five intrusive ants.

5  Ensuing Scene in Far East Unfolds Thusly

Upwards along the upright supporting beam of a gazebo hand-built of Yew Tree

pitched amid a clearing in the thick of this Eucalyptus grove

on a cloud-shrouded mountainside outside Osaka, marches a Carpenter ant

who now stops and pauses from morning work as if to watch

the single drop of dew bulge and tremble

that slips from a shingle above and threatens to fall –

and when, ant now gone back down the beam, it falls,

a simple karmic miracle happens:

the path of the dripping drop is intercepted

by a buzzing flash of Zen-green and -purple

Japanese beetle whose flyby’s timed just right

to catch the drop as magnolia blossoms catch the rain

and to make of it exactly the merest explosion of spray –

the image lasts no longer than a moment split in two;

these visions vanish in the mist, minimalist as haiku.