Caterpillar Swagger

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I wrote this poem years ago. It was in a journal when I found it years later. I distinctively remember I was on a work project where we were camping in North Carolina, and it was the weekend. I was trying my hardest to write, but the ideas were not flowing that day. Then, this caterpillar continued to just keep marching across my notebook. He was so bold and brash. I would pick him up and move him, and he’d march right across the page again. I decided he wanted to be written about. I began to think of this caterpillar’s boldness similar to like a sixteen year old guys, who thinks he knows everything about life, who believes nothing is going to get in his way. There was something fun in revisiting that mindset from the perspective of an adult looking at him going, ‘You have no idea.’ Out of that encounter, this poem was born. I hope you enjoy it.

Caterpillar Swagger

You would have guessed he was sixteen,
still lean of muscle and heartache,
cocky enough to know he carries no weight
of manhood yet. The swagger-
“Babe Ruth Little League, I chew hard,
Spit far, fuck anything,” the cruise control
God puts every man on for those first few years
behind the wheel. The idea of fast
without accelerating, the engine revving
before the drag racing.
He had it, the roses for the girl,
the prom night motel, the suggestion
of what he wanted in his walk.
Right past my notebook,
which I try to fill with thoughts
that get me through my own ackward puberties.
He even brushed up against the sharp, white,
blade cut, edge of the page, punk in the hall style.
I just look down at him,
with his yellow spiky hair,
with two streaks of black
and laughed thinking,
“you haven’t even got to the cocoon yet.
I bet you don’t even know
One day you’ll be a butterfly.”

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