“… a new study says that the vast majority of species on the verge of
                      extinction is in fact humble insects.”―
National Geographic News

We’re all feeling their absence these days.
Who can ignore the silent meadows or
the still ponds with no dragonflies left
to hover there? Word is, they’ve still got
beetles up north, a few crickets. But moths,
from all reports, have gone missing, no longer
drawn to flame. And who can remember
when they last saw a praying mantis? It’s
been years. Some say decades. But everyone
says summer doesn’t sound like summer
without cicadas and katydids. Funny,
but no one, it seems, can find words for
summer nights without fireflies.

Roaches are rampant. But the others? It’s
all we talk about. The sightings. The rumors.
How we miss them. Especially the bees.
Their humming, their honey. Nowadays,
you’d look in vain for a hive let alone
a bee-loud glade. I did see a butterfly
the other day, a pale and patchy thing.
It was on the Parkway at a yellow light,
the sun nearly gone, and it just touched down
for a moment on my windshield―
a swallowtail, I think―before it lifted
on wobbly wings and flew away.
Or blew away. I’m not sure which.


Joseph Elder is a retired social worker living in upstate New York. He is originally from Connecticut, where he grew up and graduated from Yale University. Joseph had a long career in publishing, working as both editor and literary agent in New York City. A mid-life transition led to an MSW from Adelphi University and a new career providing mental health services to the elderly. Joseph is familiar figure at local workshops and open mics. His poems often embrace themes of nature.