November 5, 2011


This is an ode to creatures I am learning to share my life with. It is a fragile balance. Some of them come into my house, and others I encounter outside. I rode a bicycle yesterday to town after a day of rains, countless centipedes were making their way across the Great Northern Road, begging to have a dumb joke written about them. Why did the centipede cross the road? Insert clever punchline here. Part of living in rural Africa is coming to terms with these sporadic yet frequent encounters, and, to borrow a term from Zambian English, I am getting used. Here is my poem, a tribute to them.

To the cockroaches with paper thin bodies that hover across a tabletop
To the spiders that sit in groups in the top corners of rooms sharing arachnid gossip
To the rats that scamp across my roof and to the mice too
To mosquitoes that have so much to take and only malaria to give
To worms with a thousand legs crossing my path after the rains stop
To snakes that convince me every twig and stick is a manifestation of their arrival
To the dead chameleon in my roof stuck forever on its last hue
To caterpillars that fall from trees like a light green rain
To grasshoppers and all else that scatter with every footstep
To the butterflies that orbit me, convincing me that nature has no intrusive beasts
except for perhaps me

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