Fish gotta swim and bird gotta fly; insects, it seems, gotta do one horrible thing after another. I never ask why of a vulture or shark, but I ask why of almost every insect I see. More than one insect--the possibility of fertile reproduction--is an assault on all human value, all hope of a reasonable god. Even that devout Frenchman, J. Henri Fabre, who devoted his entire life to the study of insects, cannot restrain a feeling of unholy revulsion. He describes a bee-eating wasp, the Philanthus, who has killed a honeybee. If the bee is heavy with honey, the wasp squeezes its crop "so as to make her disgorge the delicious syrup, which she drinks by licking the tongue which her unfortunate victim, in her death-agony, sticks out of her mouth at full length . . . At the moment of some such horrible banquet, I have seen the Wasp, with her prey, seized by the Mantis: the bandit was rifled by another bandit. And here is an awful detail: while the Mantis held her transfixed under the points of the double saw and was already munching her belly, the Wasp continued to lick the honey of her Bee, unable to relinquish the delicious food even amid the terrors of death. Let us hasten to cast a veil over these horrors."
Let me sum up the above passage from Annie Dillard: each to his own. Fish do not go for walks on the beach. Birds do not hitchhike south for the winter. And some insects, it seems, will kill for some good honey. The natural world is full of strange and (sometimes) slightly Hannibal-Lecterish wonders. The Philanthus is doing what the Philanthus is genetically predisposed to do: squeeze the living honey out of bees.
I like to think that I was born with certain natural gifts, things that come as naturally to me as swimming upstream to spawn does to salmon. Of course, salmon die after spawning. (Geez. Dying fish. Homicidal wasps. Maybe Fabre was right. Mother Nature is an unholy horror.) I think gifts are talents that people are genetically predisposed to excel at. The brain is some how wired for that gift.
Case in point: I am in a band with two people who have the savant-like ability to sing anything in harmony. They both play several instruments. Guitar. Cello. Harmonica. Drums. Bass. They breathe music. It's their oxygen. And I'm lucky enough to work with them on most Sundays, sharing the same musical atmosphere for a short while.
I know that I've talked about the one gift that I think I have. It's writing. In particular, poetry writing. Yes, I've studied poetry. I've got an MFA in it. But, it has always been easy for me. That's doesn't mean that I don't have to practice. I write every day. A lot. In this blog. In my journal. I read other poets. Gifts are muscles. They have to be flexed, exercised.
I'm writing about this subject because I think gifts can be taken for granted. My band mates do it. I do it. And sometimes it takes an outsider to remind me that my gift is unique. Special. I forget that poetry isn't easy for everybody. My band mates will look at me like I'm a tentacled ostrich when I can't sing harmony on a song. They forget that music isn't easy for me.
Ilya Kaminsky is a gifted poet. I'm sure that he thinks in image, like me. Like most of my writer friends. I think in poetry. My band mates think in music. Charles Schulz thought in cartoons. Einstein thought in relativity and mathematical theory. Donald Trump thinks in stupidity.
Saint Marty is grateful for his gift tonight, the way he's grateful for good music and funny cartoons. Idiotic Republicans are a whole other story . . .
by: Ilya Kaminsky
Her shoulder: an ode to an evening, such ambitions.
I promise I will teach her to ride horses, we will go to Mexico, Angola, Australia. I want her to imagine our scandalous days in Odessa when we will open a small sweets shop--except for her lovers and my neighbors (who steal milk chocolate by the handfuls) we will have no customers. In an empty store, dancing among stands with sugared walnuts, dried carnations, boxes upon boxes of mints and cherries dipped in honey, we will whisper to each other our truest stories.
The back of her knee: a blessed territory, I keep my wishes there.