Friday, November 7, 2014

Silence, Anopheles

By Cameron Conaway
You should have just asked the mosquito.
— 14th Dalai Lama

It's risky business needing
from others
not for science or even more life
for hellos and goodbyes
and most substances between
but so your kids can exit
while entering and spread
their wings long
after yours dry and carry on
by wind not will.
It's risky business feeding on others,
but we all do
one way or another.
It's risky business needing
when you have nothing,
but life has you and lives
writhe inside you.
Risky to solo into the wild
aisles of forearm hair thicket
for a mad sip,
not quick enough
to snuff the wick of awareness
but too fast for savoring.
A mad sip that makes
you gotcha or gone
and may paint you and yours
and them — Plasmodium falciparum
on the canvas you needed
to taste behind.
It's risky business needing
and then getting
and being too too to know what to do —
too full and carrying
too many to fly.
It's risky business being
the silent messenger
of bad news when you don't know the bad news
is consuming you, too.
It's not risky business
being the blind black barrel
of pistol or proboscis,
but it is damn risky business being
the pointer or the pointed at.
It's risky business being
born without asking
for a beating heart.
Having and then needing to need
to want until next
or else
and sometimes still or else.
Risky when you're expected to deliver
babies and have no gods to guide
their walk on water
because you did it
long before they or him or her or it
never did.
Risky when you're born
on water and capricious cloudscapes
shape whether sun lets leaves
bleed their liquid shadow blankets
into marshes or mangrove swamps
or hoof prints or rice fields or kingdoms
of ditches.
It's risky business naming and being named
while skewered and viewed
under the skewed microscopic lens
of anthropocentrism
an (not) opheles (profit)
a goddess name, Anopheles,
that translates to mean useless
and sounds beautiful at first
then awful when its insides linger.
An(ophel)es, you are only 57% different, no,
you are 43% the same as me, no,
I am, no, we are 43% you, no, we all are
nearly, mostly.
It's risky business leaving
large clues —
a welt and then a dying child slobbering silver
under its mother's croon.
It's risky business being
when you don't
because you have two weeks
or less to do doing.
Risky business killing,
but it depends on who, where, when —
self-sufficient Malawi village in 2014
vs. the legend of Dante & Lord Byron.
Mae Sot or Maine, Rourkela or Leeds.
It's risky business killing
killers that always only want
their kind
of tropical retreat.
It's risky business being
profoundly —
the speck of black
sesame or apostrophe
blending in the expanse
of rye or papyrus
and taken
onto allergic tongues.
It's risky business sharing
your body with strangers —
uninvited multiplicities hijacking
what you have
because to them you are what you have.
Risky when all know
your 1 mile per hour,
your under 25 feet high for miles,
your 450 wingbeats per second.
Risky business being you
when some want not to fly
weeks with your wings
but walk days atop them.
Is it riskier business being content
and peacefully going extinct
or not being
content and forever brinking
in the bulbous ends of raindrops
that cling but fatten?
Like raindrops and us, Anopheles,
when you fatten, you fall.
History favors the fallen.
To drip
a long life
of falling
before the fall
or to live
a short life
oblivious to it all?
Risky that we exchange
counters — DNA mutations
that make some of us
sort of
immune to each other's jabs
though hooks always slip through,
and we send each other stumbling,
always stumbling, always only stumbling.
Changing ourselves changes each other.
Each other is ourselves.
They tell us it's risky business doing
but it is more risky being
Did you hear all that, Anopheles?
How about now?
We're asking. We're good at that.
Does all life listen
at the speed of its growing?
Are we listening too loudly
or too slowly to your silence?

This poem originally appeared on NPR's website. The author has a new book entitled Malaria: Poems.

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