He cannot fly, his wings are sere;

his sickly skin of yellowish-green


suffocates him like a clinging,

rayon leotard.  Even his stark,


swollen eyes, unwinking and peeled,

distended like glistening, bald


heads, are actually slack and glazed;

nearly lifeless, they only fathom


obscure shapes of impending death.

The springs in his folded hind-legs,


curiously jointed and neatly gathered,

are now weakened and rusted; only


when teased too much or tormented

do they jerk him briefly in the air


or blindly dash him against a wall

in feeble imitation of their former


art.  Does he remember how in his prime

he convulsed in trajectories of delight


like a nimble pole-vaulter or intrepid

aerialist, how easily he catapulted


his agile flesh across obstacles like

a rocket launched in happy propulsion?


Now, prey to disabling time, he lies

supine, unless startled in painful


fright.  He flip-flops to another side

like a wounded bird in flight or a


shell-shocked helicopter careening

in the night.  It's not that he was


always thus--he too knew a season

in oxygen, of intensified vitals,


wider hours, wild nocturnal flights,

and ecstasies, strange and sudden,


single or coupled.  He too, an instant

or two, found that shuddering gasp or


shooting spark called love; how it

leaps into swift perfection, responds


to thirsting muscles, or shivers,

sated, slaked and sodden... but now


already old and inept, he's confined

to a sad, empty courtyard, impotent.


Abandoned, there he languishes, unfit

and useless, impervious to all help,


a dying grasshopper, baited by ants,

eaten alive bit by bit--mere carrion.


Back to Selected Poems from The Used Book

  Copyright © 2005 - Makarand Paranjape