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Hornworm: Autumn Lamentation

 Since that first morning when I crawled
into the world, a naked grubby thing,
and found the world unkind,
my dearest faith has been that this
is but a trial: I shall be changed.
In my imaginings I have already spent my brooding winter underground, unfolded silky powdered wings, and climbed into the air, free as a puff of cloud to sail over the steaming fields, alighting anywhere I pleased, thrusting into deep tubular flowers.
It is not so: there may be nectar in those cups, but not for me.
All day, all night, I carry on my back embedded in my flesh, two rows of little white cocoons, so neatly stacked they look like eggs in a crate.
And I am eaten half away.
If I can gather strength enough I'll try to burrow under a stone and spin myself a purse in which to sleep away the cold; though when the sun kisses the earth again, I know I won't be there.
Instead, out of my chrysalis will break, like robbers from a tomb, a swarm of parasitic flies, leaving my wasted husk behind.
Sir, you with the red snippers in your hand, hovering over me, casting your shadow, I greet you, whether you come as an angel of death or of mercy.
But tell me, before you choose to slice me in two: Who can understand the ways of the Great Worm in the Sky?

Poem by Stanley Kunitz
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