Issue 156, Fall 2000
Wherefore the cutworm, that consumeth not what he
that sunders below the leaf, that razes at the spindle,
that severs the stem's base, disdaining to carry off the
Wherefore the reaping, when he harvesteth not?
To what divinity is he homage? what New World, Hun,
this slow marauder of earthen banks?
He cares nothing for trophies of conquest; he forsakes
the foliage and plume of felled peppers he disregards;
his triumph is not the slump of eggplants and broad spinach;
his glory is not the slack arms of sweet peas, whose fingers
loosen on the soil where they dropped (they furl
to the morning sun, shedding green,
no more enraptured of fences).
He is the Contradictor. He brings death to new life;
he introduces the Bitter One's point of view.
He is Excrement, the servant of leavings.
He ends the world in icy trumpets of wrath; his god is angry
His god has sent a worm to diminish us.
Or he is wit, its purpose to observe, slicing what comes
that we may start and laugh at its clean divide.
Then is his plunder our plunder.
Then is his nature on our behalf, for at our pleasure he cleaves.
Then is he legendary: Paul Bunyan, delighting in the ax.
He lays the blade against the pale throats of the seedlings,
he worships their slight bodies, their top-heavy heads;
he sees they have not yet learned to stand straight,
he topples them at their very foot.
Let us praise and thank the cutworm, for he is joyous;
he has shown us the secret lure of the vandal.
Let us praise and thank him for epic excess;
let us praise his wastefulness.
Without him, the endless wild grape would astonish us,
its panic of length overgrowing sensible oak;
without him, we would wonder too long at the also
unfathomable path of robins, their swift choices of flight,
obliquities leaving us no trail, no wake.