Eleodes armata

Pinacate beetle

Erin Wilcox



Where to begin with you,

pinacate beetle,

the signature headstand

you strike

to spray

noxious fluid

in self-defense,

your femoral spines,

sensitive antennae,

or the hollows

beneath wings

you do not use,

for you prefer to

stroll the desert

keep low

near rotting

fruit and leaves

and seeds

the ants discarded

in their dump sites


Perhaps your treatment in film

deserves mention

how you’re fit to be

spat on

fit to be


by the likes of

Clint Eastwood

and Gian Maria Volonté,

whose fist collapsed

your exoskeleton

as Mortimer’s round

would crush his chest

in the final showdown

of For A Few Dollars More


You deserve an Oscar

best supporting role

along with the

velvet mesquite

and palo verde

from which

this nation hung

its founding myths:

tough, pretty whores

the red man who captures them

the noble cowboy

meting out justice


Here lies

our Western manifesto


to find the level

of your mandible,

an outlaw history

kicking, jerking

at the end of a rope

its windpipe crushed

by its own weight



together with your cousins,

the fungus beetle

the root borer

you return the lynching tree

to the land

you love

to walk

and feed upon,

your kind makes up

one-third of all animal life

on Earth


My God. There you go,

ambling past saguaros

like a 57 Chevy on the main drag,

John Wayne’s got nothing on

your true grit,

you know when to hole up

wait out the heat

when to point your thorax

at an unwelcome guest

and fire the six-gun


They call you stinkbug, darkling,

but we are extras

in your mythology,

when empty strip malls

bear witness

to the limits

of our collective sight

you and your kith

will be

our demolition team,

you undertake

with quiet confidence

tear down

through countless generations

what cannot last,

plant eggs

in arid soil


as you prepare the ground

for your beginnings


Erin Wilcox’s poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction have been featured or are forthcoming in Praxis: Gender and Cultural Critiques, Short and Twisted (Celapene Press), Soundzine, Stoneboat, Cold Flashes: Literary Snapshots of Alaska (University of Alaska Press), Veil: Journal of Darker Musings (Subsynchronous Press), and in radio broadcasts including KXCI Tucson’s A Poet’s Moment, Broad Perspectives, and Alaska Public Radio’s AK Radio. Find out more at wilcoxwrites.com.