The Deathwatch Beetle

By Linda Pastan b. 1932 Linda Pastan
A cardinal hurls itself
at my window all morning long,   
trying so hard to penetrate
its own reflection
I almost let it in myself,
though once I saw   
another red bird, crazed
by the walls of a room,   
spatter its feathers   
all over the house.

My whole childhood is coming apart,   
the last stitches
about to be ripped out
with your death,
and I will be left—ridiculous,
to write
condolence letters
to myself.

The deathwatch beetle
earned its name
not from its ugliness
or our terror
of insects
but simply because of the sound   
it makes, ticking.

When your spirit
perfects itself,
will it escape
out of a nostril,
or through the spiral
passage of an ear?
Or is it even now battering   
against your thin skull, wild   
to get through, blood brother   
to this crimson bird?

Linda Pastan, "The Deathwatch Beetle" from The Imperfect Paradise, published by W. W. Norton & Company. Copyright © 1988 by Linda Pastan. Permission granted by the author through the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, Inc.

Source: Carnival Evening: New and Selected Poems 1968-1998 (W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 1998)


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Poet Linda Pastan b. 1932

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Time & Brevity, Living, Death

Poetic Terms Free Verse