Alfred Nicol
Mid-November House Guest

Because he never seems to move, I wonder
how he got to where he’s standing still.
The slow, painstaking insect barely flinches
when I touch his eyelash-like antenna.
He started toward stopping hours ago:
his life’s a drawn-out pilgrimage of inches.
No fretful vacillation of the will,
no panic, no unthinking flight, no blunder
out of the frying pan into Gehenna.
He’s acting on an instinct to be slow.

This afternoon he idles on The Globe,
mingling with the newsprint. The headlines treat him
like the frivolous calligraphy
he seems. Two columns forge the long decline
he’s clawed to, elbowing his spindly serif,
as if they mean to spell calamity.
One day soon, his end will come to meet him.
No exoskeletal thanatophobe,
he stands his ground and calmly holds the line,
as though supporting “Sullivan for Sheriff.”

But I presume to know my guest too well:
anthropomorphism is impolite.
He’s not The Fly, or Gregor Samsa’s cousin.
He’s not himself (though who am I to say?).
He doesn’t want to do annoying things
I would expect of him, like swarmin’, buzzin’,
(dropping g’s!). He stays inside at night,
retreating ever deeper in his shell.
He’s shot. He’s too far gone to fly away.
He’s got the winter weighing on his wings.

_ _

"Mid-November House Guest" was awarded the 2013 Robert Frost Prize by judge Kathleen Aponick.

Alfred Nicol's book of poetry, Elegy for Everyone, published in 2009, was chosen for the first Anita Dorn Memorial Prize. He received the 2004 Richard Wilbur Award for an earlier volume, Winter Light. His poems have appeared in Poetry, Dark Horse, The Hopkins Review, and other journals.

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Published by Pen and Anvil Press


ISSN 2150-6795
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