Reality Check

A ladybug landed on my arm
On Saturday. I felt the charm
The chosen feel. It brought with it
Good luck—or so I thought—then bit
Deep into me, paused for air,
Spread its spots beside a hair,
Then bit again.

My gratitude became alarm
That such a tiny thing could harm—
And worse, harm me, providing it
With such a tender place to sit.
(The bug’s an “it” because it’s fair
To say that was no lady there,
Nor gentleman.)

The insect and the sting are gone.
It’s Tuesday night, and from the lawn
Rise other wings—they rise and drop
And hover and glide; some veer, some stop
Mid-air, while some move toward a light
Beneath which I remain in sight,
Patient for an explanation.

Near one elbow, two little marks
Suggest with insects, as with sharks,
Contact is often arbitrary,
Made first by teeth. If now I’m wary
Of luck or pride (at least my own)
That ladybug has struck a bone
And left to me my re-creation.



A Paradox of Love and Mercy

If I were a fish and you were a fly,
You better believe I’d try. I’d try!
If I were the fly and you were the fish,
I know you’d grant my final wish
To take another, closer look,
Then pass me up, both heart and hook,
Thereby sparing us sharing a dish.
So you’d make a much better fish than I,
Who couldn’t resist—I’d leap—I’d die!
If I were a fish, and you were a fly.


David D. Nolta is an art historian and currently Professor and Chair of History of Art at Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston. He has been published in Rattle, Innisfree, Chelsea Station, and Subtropics, among others. He also published two mystery novels, Grave Circle and Lostlindens.

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10 Responses

  1. Paul Freeman

    I particularly enjoyed ‘Reality Check’. That ladybird deserved a damn good thrashing!

    Thanks for the read.

  2. Gail Marie Root

    These brought two savory memories to mind.

    On Lake Coeur d’Alene near the end of each sultry summer the lady bugs would swarm. I endured the torture of their biting when drying off and dressing after my evening swim. They’re very nippy if they get trapped under clothing!

    And, presently, three creeks converge in a wood (did you hear that? . . . couldn’t resist!) behind my house. The dragonfly armada sails in every evening to eat up all our mosquitoes.

  3. Daniel Kemper

    I liked [Paradox] the best. Perhaps touches my childhood as a Kitty Hawker, lost among the reeds in the salt marsh creeks seeing the flies and fish and dreaming on the girls I’d see in school on Monday morning.

  4. Yael

    Enjoyable poems, both of them.
    Our poor native ladybugs, aka ladybirds, have gotten a really bad rap lately, due to no fault of their own. They never bite nor sting and are among the very beneficial insects for agriculture. Their evil invader look-alike impostors, the imported Asian lady beetles, are the nasty biters. To add insult to injury they invade homes and other heated structures for overwintering and they eat and harm the native ladybugs. Worse than kudzu!

  5. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    David, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading both of these poems. I love the tongue-twisting, mind-bending lines of, ” A Paradox of Love and Mercy”, and especially love the musical swish of the “ish’ rhymes.

    “Reality Check” is just lovely. It takes me back to my childhood days in the UK, when I couldn’t believe such a sweet bug could bite… and hard. Apparently, during lean times they will eat their kin… a ladybird’s shell is pretty tough, so no wonder you felt its nip. My husband was bitten by a dragonfly he was saving from a spider’s web and the words of your poem remind me of the sheer shock and surprise on his face. Great stuff! Thank you!


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