Red-headed Ground Beetle · Pine Grove Trailhead

Upon Seeing a Red-Headed Ground Beetle I’ve Decided: I’m More About Protection of the Weak Than I Am Survival of the Fittest

by Bob King

Most of what we do, directly or indirectly,

is about distracting us from the fact that

we’ll all be dead soon. We’re all just renters.

But maybe it’s also about being remembered

after we’re kaput. Squished. Entombed. See also:

headstones and mausoleums, which really

are just fancy Post-it Notes for the future

generations for when they walk through

the field-cemetery-kitchen of our past lives:

we hope they see the hasty scribble and forgive

us for eating all the plums in the icebox which

they were probably saving but were so delicious

and sweet and we simply couldn’t help

ourselves. Don’t be a plum eater. Think of

others. Conserve. Learn trivia along the trail:

Did you know Darwin’s Galopagoan boat

was called the Beetle? Wait. That’s not true.

It was the Beagle. But I misheard the podcast

or the lyrics and thought John, Paul, and George

might’ve been trying to make some kind of evolved

statement after the hard days and nights in Hamburg,

where their 10,000 hours of play transformed them

from amateurs into experts. But no. They weren’t

naturalists or activists. Yet. Did you know that

Neanderthals were most likely gingers—red tufted

and freckled and soulless and Germanic with limited

language but urgent with their hubba hubba eyebrow

arches in their pastoral pickup joints because

procreation. Because without procreation they

knew that the Homo sapiens on their way from

Africa would try to exterminate or assimilate or both.

Most of us still have at least 2% Neanderthal DNA.

That’s a fact, you post-extinction caveman. Red yarn

red yarn red yarn—butterfly effect—and like an amateur

detective I can red yarn from Ethiopia to Hamburg

to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and red yarn

from my footfalls on the crushed limestone towpath

to a quick scamper off-route and after taking a leak

beside a walnut tree like my epically aged ancestors,

like an expert I bend to check out the Red-Headed

Ground Beetle feasting on aphids just outside

Szalay’s sweet corn field. Yes, it’s true that this

ginger beetle is capable of mixing chemicals

in her dual pygidial glands—her butt—yes, in

her marvelous ass she can blend fluid and create

a combustion engine and POP! hot acrid gas

ejects and is capable of paralyzing even a small

mammal, like a shrew, which is why some beetles

are called bombardier beetles and even Darwin

got bombed by one, but that’s not what took him

out. No. He was run over by a Volkswagen Bug

in the ironies to end ironies because like Alanis

Morissette, it’s not ironic. And it’s not true.

The Bug wasn’t invented until about 50 years

after Darwin’s ticker stopped, and even

the combined idea and design of Ferdinand

Porsche and Adolph Hitler couldn’t have

resurrected a father of evolution, which—

red yarn—can be easily corrupted,

like anything, because as good as we are

at discovery and invention, our penchant

for perversion and exploitation of a good idea

is just as strong. See evolution. See eugenics.

See entomology. See deforestation. See politics.

See coup d’état. But the truth also is that Red-

Headed Beetles are beneficial creatures, despite

their incredible capacity for cruelty. Cruelty

isn’t the point. For them. For us. Even the smallest

creatures make the globe spin like good vinyl.

And when all the broken-hearted people—broken

by the bullies and belligerent coaches and teachers

and family members and cliquey kids in a field

with a weaponized magnifying glass—yes,

when all the broken-hearted people living in

the world agree—agree that there’s more power

in being a cheerleader than there is being a critic—

there will be an answer. Yes, there will be an answer.

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American Witch-hazelQuartez Harris

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Common PawpawIsaiah Back-Gaal

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Spring PeeperBarbara Sabol

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Candleflame LichenClara Britton

Eastern NewtElizabeth Ryan

American BullfrogLaura Grace Weldon

American ChestnutCarrie George

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Artist’s BracketSusann Moeller

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MuskratCatherine Wing

Pearl CrescentMonica Kaiser

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Traveling Stanzas community arts projects bring poetry to people’s everyday lives through innovative methods and digital platforms.