Wed. Dec 8th, 2021
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Before me lies the corpse of a spotted lanternfly,

its stick-legs crossed like Xs above the curvature

of its body. It looks exactly as it does while alive, just

upside down, like it fell asleep and dropped midair,

or allowed a breeze to push it over as it rested.

 

It’s weird to see one still intact and serene.

I’m so used to seeing smushed and scattered

bits of their wings, faces, stomachs smothered

about the sidewalks and asphalt. These creatures

haven’t heard of death by natural causes.

 

We’ve been killers since our conception,

conquering the weak and vanquishing threats

for our survival. But as the self-declared

fittest, we can make anything a threat.

We slather walls with the blood

of our enemies and our friends.

 

As I stare at the fly, another struts out from underneath

my bench toward the corpse. It crawls around its fallen

comrade, as if confirming its status, before facing me.

 

It makes a clockwise circle two feet wide, eyes locked in

my direction, around the body. I stare at its moving legs

as they stretch out to grab small ridges along the sandpaper-like 

ground. What wars this creature’s ancestors must have endured

to make it so cautious.

 

Two more circles and the lanternfly pauses

as if to ask, “Are you friend or foe?”

 

I do not respond;

I do not move.

 

Seemingly satisfied, it loops around the body counterclockwise 

before slowly approaching me, stopping just short of my foot.

 

Does it know I think of crushing its exoskeleton into pieces?

That I am a soldier of a regime, commanded by my superiors

to kill on sight? That by hesitating, fighting this war

within me, I am defying orders ingrained into my DNA?

 

Its small, beady, impossibly black eyes remain on me,

and I wonder if it means to intimidate me.

I slide away.

Maybe it’s working.

 

A car horn blares like a signal to advance, and I turn my head

toward it for a moment.

“I have to kill it,” I think.

“I have to.”

 

But when I turn back, the fly is nowhere in sight.

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