in memory of an African childhood
Smooth as glass and cold as yoghurt
to the touch, they are dressed today
in the colours of grandmother's leftover knitting.
Ribs and rows of orange, yellow, black
and white announce their edible plumpness
in brazen stripes.
I, too, am dressed for the occasion, wear my purple
trumpet-flower gloves to pluck them from the vine.
In the dirt near the chook house, boiling oil smokes
in a blackened tin. It's harvest time and we're taking a break
from wheelbarrow rides, turning cutworms
into compost, gorging on mulberries and nectarines.
Our plastic buckets seethe and brim. The paint tin
hisses, mouth wide open to sacrifice.
We drop them in, watch the fizzing oil unpick
the mopani worms' perfect mismatched colour.
Catherine wheels explode; petroleum swirls
spin towards the edges.
The worms are floating now, a ghostly knot
of shocked grey sticks. I shift the grass and dust
of Africa between my toes. The sweat on my lip
is ripe mango.
We scoop them up with a slotted spoon,
scatter them onto yellowed newspapers
a delicacy crisping with salt in the sun.
". . . Insects are eaten throughout Africa. Along with grasshoppers, termites, and others, at least forty types of caterpillars are utilized as food across much of Africa; the most widespread of these is the mopane worm, the larva of Imbrasia belina, a large and lovely saturnid moth. Named after the mopane tree (Colophospermum mopane), their food source, the mopane [or mopani] worm appears to be the most collected and sold edible insect species in the world. . . " To find out more about Mopani worms, click here.
Welcome back to a new year of Tuesday Poem.
This week's editor is TP curator Mary McCallum. Mary is featuring the stirring poem - Last Rescued Bird - by wildly, widely-published Seattle-based poet, Therese Clear (a favourite of mine, too!).