You may know what a bug coil is, an incense stick spiraled like an electric stove coil that releases smoke to ward off those tiny flying rigs of evil. I learned about them in a hurry one Memorial Day weekend at a campground in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, where I’d arrived for some peak bagging. The days up along the ridgelines were marvelous, hiking through cool forests to come upon sunny views of mountain bowls filling up with the salad greens of spring. Happy hour back at camp was another matter; my tent site was down by a shady vale damp with ferns and nastiness. In order to read, I placed burning bug coils at both sides of me on the picnic table to be bathed by breeze smoke from either direction. So I was suitably placed to read “Ambition II: Mosquito in the Mist” by Tim Seibles in a valuable anthology, Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry, edited by Camille T. Dungy.
Ambition II: Mosquito in the Mist
You human-types, you
you guys are walking smoothies
ta me, milkshakes wearin’ trousers,
a cup’a coffee mowing a lawn.
I gotta hand it to you though—
all the colors, the smells, tall,
petite, skinny-minnies or whoppin’
whale-sized motha’ humphries—you
got variety: I’m zippin’ around
some summa’ nights and it’s like
an all-you-can-eat situation.
And I like the threads—hiphop
baggies, halter tops, baseball caps,
most’a the fabrics flexible enough
for me and my little straw.
But I sense some chronic
unfriendliness, some ongoing
agitation from you hemoglobes.
My family and me are small things
tyin’a quench a thirst. It’s our nature.
The random violence is really
uncalled for. The bashing, the swatting…
And the cursing! Fuck you guys, man!
It’s like you never heard’a the word
And the worst
is when you bring down the curtain
right in the middle
of a good suck. I don’t think
I need ta spotlight the obvious
analogy, but ok: imagine yourself
alone wit’ someone you want
real bad—her skin is toffee,
his hair is an avalanche
comes: the shared
shimmer in the eyes and you
lean into the kiss, warm
and rich as God’s
good cocoa, your mouth’s
slurping up the sweetness,
when— a smack
big as Godzilla, knocks the livin’
juji-fruit outta you.
The luscious touches, the hum
of two hearts, the holy
communion flung into the fat-ass dark forever.
What? You think we ain’t
got feelings!? I got the memories.
It’s all in the genes! See,
you big-holes-in-the-face motha’ humphries
don’t never think nothin’
about other kinds’a life,
but that’s alright, I got dreams. I got
big plans. I’m all itchy and bumpy
wit’ discontent—and you might not
see it but I’m getting’ bigger—I
been liftin’—and someday I’m gonna
get a little payback on the go:
land on your cheek like a
round-house kick, and before
you can pick up your nostrils
I’m gonna drink you dry, drain ya
to the lees—you’ll be
layin’ there stiff as beef jerky,
your arrogant balloon
all flat and wrinkly
while I liff off like a, like a
helicopter, like a goddam
12-cylinda’ angel, like a bulldozer
witta’ probiskamus big
as a’ elephant’s dick.
Who knew a mosquito had the heart of a slam poet? Who knew a mosquito could be so right?
It turns out that Gretchen Primack is a big fan of Tim Seibles, whose poems she teaches to her students in prison. Now she has gotten me hooked as well. “Mosquito in the Mist” also appears in Buffalo Head Solos, an imaginative cabaret that mixes a mimic’s ear for verbal storytelling with a magician’s gift for metaphor. Seibles teaches English at Old Dominion University in Virginia, but doesn’t do fusty and reflective. To the contrary, he writes in his introduction, “What the hell happened to the notion of poet as town crier, rabble rouser, court jester, priestess, visionary, madman?” Yet he’s no pedantic ranter, either. He has too much wit and empathy and brilliance. He writes under the sign of his heroes Jimi Hendrix and Pablo Neruda, public entertainers and masters of loud volume tenderness. Best of all, he’ll be at the Colony Cafe in Woodstock on Saturday, October 22nd at 5 pm. To quote Seibles again, he writes with “the kiss of a shark and the feet of a sparrow, a poetry at intervals beautiful then ruthless, frank but full of quickening delusions.” I won’t forget my bug coils.