Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home.
Your house is on fire;
Your children all roam.
Except little Nan
Who sits in her pan
Weaving her laces as fast as she can.
—Traditional English nursery rhyme, c. 1744 (var.)
Give me the hush-hush,
those first moments navigating to bed,
before I crack the spine of a book,
before my close-sleeping tomcat closes in.
Slowly, the settle-down
of this city of noises, the urge of day
with its freight whistle, bird lilt,
car wheels on the asphalt, sighs
from the tree lawn where I’m too often
a middle-aged ragamuffin puttering in potting soil,
propping the droop of parsley, cilantro, and dill
with bamboo hoops like girders
to keep my herbal stories intact.
The day sheds its kinetic
and I’m about to dip into glory,
a story by Alice Munro!
When—lo, behold—a ladybug alights
on the back of my hand.
Virtuoso at survival, O many-named,
lady beetle, ladybird, vedalia in Australia:
Did I somehow bring you home
from the ristorante where you climbed
the dew on my water glass Saturday night?
There’s too much dada, really, in that.
I have to believe in the rational,
a simple cause/effect:
surely a recent summery beetle-hatch?
Then I remember
that time on the porch, the Ithaca
spring of the accidental puppies,
incidents with a rifle, a visit from the squad car,
the late enemy’s too-many-to-count
tipsy and uneven threats.
nine-spotted Coccinella novemnotata,
the state insect of New York
going extinct, climbing the panes,
while I sat in the rocker that used to belong
to Sinclair Lewis and let them
blanket me. I counted so many
cosmopolitan spots, revisited
the rhyme, prayed
their singsong beneficence
would shower its luck
over me. Help me
Where I now peel back the covers,
cup my hands, careful steps
to the window,
lift the sash.