I see a praying mantis resting on the fender of the car, then another joins. This is what happens:
The holy insect devours her little husband with sheer delight
First, they make love and at the critical moment, she bites off the head
I marvel at this flesh-eating mantis,
How many husbands will she have before eating them all?
Her green shield among the green bushes hide her in safety.
The brown ones also find protection in trunks and barks of trees
that match their coloring. The brightly colored can be mistaken for flowers.
While taking a passport photo some time ago, I was told that I move
the whole body, insect-like, instead of just the head. Several attempts
will still have a missing ear, a raised shoulder, or an incline to one side.
My failure at precision enables me to admire Hottentot gods because
they’re different from other insects. They can turn their small triangular heads
to perfect a knowing, intelligent look. With five eyes all together, their wisdom
compound so when night comes, the light in their eyes changes color.
Like old gods, they’re always hungry, fierce and blood-thirsty.
Skilled creatures of the hunt, they’ll walk on four hind legs as if moving to rock music,
only to rapidly stretch out and trap their prey between a double row of sharp terrible legs.
They’ll soothingly and lovingly nibble at their prey with their small jaws,
for the sole purpose of softening the prey before swallowing it. What we call
tenderizing in human terms, softening your enemy like whipped cream in order
to enjoy the whole bite. What we might call tenderized violence, sacred.
Note: At first, I thought this poems’s title would be Eating Husbands, but then it expanded into something much more as I looked at and thought of the praying mantis in general terms. I chose to incorporate bits of natural history in it, including the origin of the word mantis in Greek–mantikos–which is soothsayer/prophet. Praying mantises in South Africa are sometimes called Hottentot gods, so I rolled with that as well. I was focusing on the female praying mantis, but when a male one joined it and ended up as prey, I naturally switched to preying mantis. I saw in the act of eating and making love the art of prayer, contemplation, passion and compassion all at once. I realized that praying and preying aren’t as far from each other as one would think. I realized how I tend to forget that violence is intricately woven in all the things and activities we enjoy, and the tenderness that comes into it to make it more palatable.
I moved into the house to retrieve my phone for a picture, but when I got back outside the male mantis was finished, the female gone. I’m glad I got the image in my head and it has birthed this poem for your savoring.