Sample Poems
by James Bertolino


Sun Worship

Looking like Muslims at prayer, they gather
in rows over the silk
and twig-ridges
of their tents. When the sun
commands, they do a synchronized dance—
weaving side-to-side with a snap
that quickens.

Wearing saffron yellow and
millennial black, they are
the tent caterpillars, and in their millions
an unsavory prey.

Today, we see one march the length
of a bleached log, searching
for the single sacred place where cocooning
feels right. When it pauses, and curls like something soft
you’d want to touch, my companion explains
if you see a chalky spot that glows
against the dark of the forehead, it means
this supplicant has been chosen
by a wasp who’s laid an egg.

Later, inside the cocoon, that humid
rebirthing chamber, it will hatch
and feed greedily on the sacrificial host.
Swollen then with such rich nourishment, such
spiritual fat, the young wasp will poke
a portal through and,

like a moth driven ecstatic
by light, ascend.

Her Breath

She is where the song
sits down and weeps

for joy, where the red-winged
blackbird calls for what comes

after. She is the river
splashing the moon onto darkened stones,

the broken yolk that beckons the sun
to its yellow nest. Her breathing

stitches what time
has torn.

No Fear

When you see the crab
moving sideways

in the shadows, you should know
its glossy shell not only protects,

but imprisons. When finally it wrenches
its swelling flesh free, it is flayed

by pain, naked to every least abrasion,
each bite. But the crab doesn't fear

its life is finished. It soon feels itself loose
and lengthened, skin hardening

to new armor. Finds itself grown
more grand, commanding and

fiercely hungry.