Matthew Francis

Mealybug Nymphs, Gossamer

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after Robert Hooke, Micrographia (1665)

A warm wall, heavy leaves, hard green grapes

    and a cluster of berries

        spun out of cobweb.

They were packed with brown roe, or, later,

    an anarchy of hatchlings,

        scattering crawlers

scarce larger than the eggs they once were,

    two eye-dots on a body

        the shape of an egg.

I counted nine scales at the rear end,

    two whiskers, a two-pronged tail

        six legs underneath.

Though I shut some in a box, thinking

    they might become something else,

        they grew but little,

leaving me with these wisps of knowledge,

    like the filaments that fall

        sometimes from the air,

which may be the shed fibres of clouds

    or thrums of unfinished web.

        I cannot join them.