Poetry Story

I Kill with the Earth

A poem in prose

I kill with the earth, that with which I line the walls of my room. With a paint brush choked with white diatomaceous earth-powder, I dab and fluff along the crack where the walls meet the floor to discourage the passage of bedbugs into my abode. The powder floats up and down through the sunrays that beam through the window. A Latvian choir sings vespers from my speakers and scores the moment. A lively moment, indeed, killing satanic creatures with the very earth they inhabit, or rather inhabited. I wear a white mask because microscopic charred rock isn’t great for one’s health or throat, at least as great as it is at killing them silently.

Here in late October, as an Indian summer day seizes, I’m in shorts when I should be figuring out layers. This interlude makes for curious thinking; I’m thinking about the weather and how strange it is when I really should be thinking about autumn in its usual path, from green to gold and red to dead—or so it seems. Then again when is weather ever not weird here? In Chicago, in the Midwest, things are best when they are on the move, the future blocked from view with today askew and only tomorrow the chance to weather things anew. The truth is, the world isn’t dead at the end of autumn when clouds set in and the cool air cocoons us for months; it’s only hibernating. All that dies die will be back again, if not exactly as it once was. It will be close enough, and hard for us humans to tell the difference. Can you tell one year’s sunflower patch from another?

I kill preemptively with the earth, diatomaceous powder that lies in wait, white and benign, until whatever crawls through the walls slides its thin belly over it. It doesn’t strike down its victim there, but in a moment, after the pitiful, pestilential creature’s exoskeleton has been thrashed through and exposed with the microscopic shards of ground-rock. It dies not of inhalation or poisoning, but of exposure. It bleeds out, bleeding the blood of its nocturnal victims. But this gruesome death that I cheer (good riddance) is not a death, only a hibernation. That bug is dead, but the others live. Those spared a diatomaceous death can live for years dormant, biding their time in verily anywhere, the vermin. The trap that I set in this interlude of an Indian summer is an interlude for them too. Whether they climb to my room or not, or whether they’re already here and laughing at my efforts, they will bide their time like the bushes and trees, who sleep the winter dormant but not dead, and wait to show their faces again, when they must. Dust to earth to dust, and again.

The dust of fallen leaves and rock ground into the ground floats in my air now as diatomaceous earth. It speckles the sunlight and makes it known. The choral vespers hover in the air too, a lullaby to a future-timely death of pests whose time has come. Say your prayers, parasites. The dust lying in repose waits for a bedbug to cross over it, not on this faux summery day but after, after the dust has settled and the winter has arrived for another hibernation. Will the living that die live again?

Come out, come out, wherever you crawl.