Of all the animals, humans are the worst
at standing still. See how patiently the heron
waits for fish in the autumn river? Oh, wait.
That’s a log, gnarled and weather-worn.
I can’t say “driftwood” unless the water
holds salt. This is my own association
and not a technical definition. Of all the animals,
humans are the best at seeing
what they want to see. If I say “driftwood,”
I feel a pebble-shaped chunk of it
slivering my skin. My sister and I would make
little boats and set them to the ebbing tide,
see whose would topple first. Today,
a walking stick insect tried to camouflage itself
against my fingers. A cockroach disguised
as a beetle hopped from my palm to my leg.
I worried I would crush it. “It’s okay,”
said the biologist at the Insectarium, where I
was the only adult not accompanying a child.
A grandmother asked me how long the butterflies
live. I excel at being mistaken for someone
who knows something. I studied the longwing
tugging against the bark chips on the floor
of the enclosure while the others curled and uncurled
their proboscises, their legs sinking into ripe fruit.
Kathryn Smith is the author of the poetry collection Book of Exodus (Scablands Books) and the forthcoming chapbook Chosen Companions of the Goblin, winner of the 2018 Open Country Press Chapbook Contest. Her poems have been published in Poetry Northwest, Mid-American Review, Redivider, Bellingham Review, The Journal, and elsewhere, and have earned an Allied Arts Foundation Award, a Spokane Arts Grant Award, and a Pushcart special mention. She also makes collage and mixed media art using discarded books and embroidery. Originally from Port Angeles, Washington, she now lives in Spokane.