Common Stoneflies · Pine Grove Trailhead

Ode to the Plecoptera

by Karen Schubert

I sing you, common stonefly, and your 3500
families living everywhere except Antarctica,

coming to us straight from the Carboniferous
358.9 million years ago when atmospheric oxygen

reached its pinnacle and your ancestors
were big as flying cars. Now ribbons of oil.

You’re the canaries in our clean streams, intolerant
of pollution where until recently, water

was pristine. I sing you, drab brown Plecoptera,
your Greek name meaning braided wings,

even if you prefer water over air, mandibles
feeding on sunken leaves and algae or

large compound eyes hunting arthropods.
After swimming as gilled nymph for years,

leap to land for one last molt, listen for a mate
drumming his belly for you. Then fly low over

the water to drop your thousand sticky eggs.

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