Tuesday, January 5, 2021

What the new year brings

I began the new year 
suffocating a bug.
This does not bode well for 
my year ahead.

On New Year's Day,
a stink bug crawled across my kitchen counter and
I covered it with my drinking glass.
Yes, I just set my drinking glass on top of it.

This is my INSTINCT, to kill.
The rawness of this
is frightening.

The base of the glass had a slight stem,
allowing a pocket of air
for the stink bug,
meaning it wasn't immediately killed,
but slowly tortured,
with its air limited,
its freedom taken.
This is worse, isn't it?

I have long left bugs for others.
It's who I am.
Growing up, in Navy housing,
I was notorious for 
capturing not killing
someone else to find and handle.
I still giggle at the memory
Dad's early morning find
a discarded bowl on the floor
followed by his jumping
as a cockroach raced away.

Maybe I'm not a killer.
Maybe I wasn't trying to kill the stink bug.
Maybe it was a reprise of my cockroach dance,
me not wanting to deal with this
punting the task
hoping someone else would take care of it.
After 34 years, my husband's on to me, I suppose.
He didn't move the drinking glass.
I told him the bug was there.
He told me he thought I should deal with it.
This is a supportive spouse, right?
Not an enabler.
Fostering growth and all that, right?
He wants me to learn new things, right?
Spirit of the new year and all?

I cannot imagine killing bugs.
This isn't goodness within but
pure selfishness
I cannot witness this
sensory overload
the grisly demise
the damp and squishy paper towel
the green color of tiny guts
even the slight hiss of 
that final moment.
Unbearable, it is.
I can't.

The drinking glass sat 
on the stink bug 
for three days.

I knew it was high time to wash the drinking glass
dispose of the body
to be brave
glass is weird
you can see in it
I saw
the stink bug was still moving
for real
I saw my reflection, too
eyes wide, at this knowledge

My lack of immediate action
led me someplace worse
I didn't kill the bug outright
but slowly tortured it over a couple of days,
eliminating most of its air.
Shouldn't I have just killed it?
swatted it?
smashed it?
been done with it?
I had not killed the bug
I had tortured the bug
For. Three. Days.
This is much worse, right?
Who am I?

what to do?
what to do?
what to do?

I found an envelope from
a dear friend's thank you card
(where she had glowingly noted
how kind and loving I was,
irony not lost on me)
I slipped the envelope under
the drinking glass
carefully carried all
out of the kitchen
a slow walk
a funeral march 
to the backyard
where I
set the stink bug free
into the safe surrounds
of the spiny mahonia

I watched it
all the while
for its forgiveness.

Footnote: After this 'interlude,' I read up on the brown marmorated stink bug . . . only to further my confusion about what I 'should' have done, how I 'should' have reacted to this find in my house. Wait, I 'should' be killing these? They are considered serious agricultural pests, introduced to the Mid-Atlantic from Asia in 1998. They devour plants, particularly fruits and vegetables. They 'winter' inside homes - and there are sometimes hundreds inside houses (oh, please, please, no). 

If I see any more, I may construct this trap, taking my malevolent tendencies to a whole new level.

To the year ahead!


I wrote this post for Slice of Life.  All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, on Tuesdays. Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!


  1. Maureen,
    I have been busy reading about the brown marmorated stink bug. I have never seen or heard of them before. It is hard to kill bugs, isn't it? I hope your little friend, suffering for three days, doesn't go on to ruin anyone's crops! Great telling about the conflict within!

    1. Yes, I, too, have been learning more than I ever wanted to know about stink bugs!

  2. Maureen, not all bugs are created equal. Some are beneficial; others, like that stink bug, will eat your food given a chance. Like it or not, we all unwittingly contribute to the evolutionary cycle by shopping in supermarkets. Still, your poem has a Robert Burns quality. It reminds me of “The Flea.” For me it’s the glass out of place that would have driven me bonkers. I did giggle throughout and love the suspense. I can see you pacing and contemplating the bugs fate. What a way to ring in the new year.

    1. Thanks for seeing the humor within! It's just strange to think myself a peaceful person, and to have this 'rage' against bugs!

  3. Don't feel guilty about killing bugs, is my advice. Mosquitoes are beautiful, but you'd better believe I slap them dead if I get the chance. They've killed more human beings than any other creature! Happy New Year!

    1. Actually, you remind me, I do not hesitate to swat a mosquito - I guess because they HURT me? I guess we're not meant to get along with everyone and everything...
      Happy New Year!

  4. A wonderful reading journey through your fine narrative poem Maureen. All the doubts and reservations expertly revealed. Your inner voice was strong throughout the poem. I saw a little of myself in your reflective thoughts on bug life relationships. Your post script was most informative.

    1. Thanks, Alan! I appreciate your good words. I learned a lot more about stink bugs than I wanted to...

  5. There is so much to this poem. Yes, it's about a bug - but it leaves me as a reader wondering if maybe it's about more. "me not wanting to deal with this /punting the task / hoping someone else would take care of it."

    I know for myself the way I handle small things can be a metaphor for the way I handle big things. Either way, I love the way your musings on a little stink bug expand into big, universal ideas about life, about our duty to protect it, or even about us as people and whether or not we're willing to take on difficult tasks.

    As for me, I'm the one in our house who captures and releases all the spiders...

    1. Yay, Lainie! Yes, I am always releasing spiders, believing them to be so good for our plants. Thank you for your comments...I definitely saw many parallels in my attitude about the stink bug to the larger world...which is why I thought a poem about it might be a fun way to kick off this new year!