Poetry: On the Origin of the Species by R.L. Maizes

A black water bug crawled across the tile in my father’s desert
condo like I crept through my childhood
when he appeared, toting his hard shell
briefcase. I watched the bug while my father, unsteady
at the dining room table, disarmed
by age, watched me. He once burned a red balloon
into my thigh with a looped belt, the slap
like the flap of a large bird lifting off. I flew to the ceiling
leaving the carnage behind. Now he gummed his salmon
while I trapped the bug with a juice glass
careful not to catch its hair-thin legs or delicate antennae.
In the rainforest, a chimpanzee fishes termites with a stick
but lacks the imagination to whip its young.
I covered the glass with cardboard and flew
the bug outside. “Human kind,” my father said,
when I returned, and I nearly
forgave him.

R.L. Maizes is the author of the novel Other People’s Pets (Celadon Books, Macmillan, 2020), winner of the Colorado Book Award, and the short story collection We Love Anderson Cooper (Celadon Books, Macmillan, 2019). Her work has aired on National Public Radio and has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Literary Hub, and elsewhere.

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