Beetles and Unknowable Things

by Rachel Tanaka


I squeezed an orchid bud 

thinking it would crack open like a pistachio

and bloom between my fingers.


Instead, a beetle scuttled out 

with a flattened back and limp legs. 


This is what the world must be like for boys. 

A scary place

filled with beetles and unknowable things.  


The pretty they knew

of whole pomegranates, hung 


above their heads like a ruby moon. 

They didn’t know splitting it open

meant blood. 


After ladling in a handful of gems

into their mouths


the boys chewed and gagged 

at the bitter grit of each hidden seed.

What was all this work for?


Their fingertips and lips stained 

red and plump with a sour acid. 


Their calves knotted and aching 

from tippy-toeing 

toward the fruit to pluck it.


All for a sweetness they could not taste.  


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