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Ekphrastic Poem
SHJ Issue 18
Spring 2018

Two Stick Insects

by Lola Haskins

Podacanthus Typhoon, watercolor and ink drawing of stick insect by Thomas Watling
Podacanthus typhoon by Thomas Watling* [click image to enlarge]


1. Podacanthus typhoon

—Watercolor, by Thomas Watling, Australia (1792-1797) [*]
Whoever named you
did not see you as you are:
elegant as a fine kimono
with your four understated wings
dark green against your dark red body.
The way it tapers to elongated pincers
is lovely enough to bring anyone’s brush to tears.
I was certain I could render
your pleasures for all the world to see
but I have come to realize
that there is something in you
I cannot paint
and will never understand.

2. Phasmidae

—The voracious appetites of these insects create the gaps in tropical forests which allow the great trees to climax as they reach for the sun.
Under a leaf, a twig rocks
from side to side as if
a breeze has found it.
A winged male
steadies her abdomen
and inserts himself.
When she is flown,
the abandoned leaf will
weep for her. But it need not,
for after she has buried
her eggs, she will return
and consume it.
As with us and our own
mysteries, phasmidae were
never twigs, but they serve them.

—Poem was published previously in the San Diego Poetry Annual 2017-18 (Garden Oak Press, in association with the San Diego Entertainment & Arts Guild [SDEAG]; February 2018); appears here with permissions from the poet and the publisher


[* Webmaster’s Note: Pink-winged phasma, one of nearly 200 species of stick insects in Australia (with new species discovered regularly). This watercolor and ink drawing by Thomas Watling (c. 1792-1797) is in the public domain, and the reproduction here was downloaded from the Natural History Museum, “What’s New at the Museum”: Australian rarities arrive in the Images of Nature gallery (7 February 2012).]


SHJ Issue 18
Spring 2018

Lola Haskins

is a poet and artist whose work has appeared in The Atlantic, the London Review of Books, London Magazine, The New York Quarterly, Georgia Review, Prairie Schooner, Rattle, and elsewhere; and has been broadcast on NPR and BBC radio. She is the author of more than a dozen publications: fourteen collections of poems, a poetry advice book, and a non-fiction book about fifteen Florida cemeteries.

Haskins has been awarded three book prizes, two NEA fellowships, four Florida Cultural Affairs fellowships, the Emily Dickinson/Writer Magazine award from Poetry Society of America, and several prizes for narrative poetry. She retired from teaching Computer Science at the University of Florida in 2005 and served from then until 2015 on the faculty of Rainier Writers Workshop.

Author’s website:

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury