O what you saw when you were young
If you are old enough today
To have been born before TV!
Now you can remember
Your first praying mantis
Stalking very slowly as in a horror film;
A flea market at the State Fair:
Inserted into paper pastel skirts
To move on a small dance floor
Or pull paper-clip chariots
(That was called “the fleas’ Ben-Hur”),
A circle of people standing around
The attraction looking down at the dots;
Two boxing kangaroos in a tent
On the sand at Jones’ Beach
If you were specially lucky;
Uncle and Aunt at night
In your own backyard,
Introducing you to Orion the Hunter
(Feel the crick in your neck
As you look up at splendid new friend
Unknown to Katie and Steve
Who only possessed the Big Dipper).
But surely the greatest thing you ever saw
With your young eyes was that creeping
Light green mantis preying or praying
That you wanted to prod with one finger
But did not know if it was safe, or real.
Jonathan Bracker’s poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry Northwest, Writer’s Digest, and other periodicals; in several small press anthologies, and in six small press collections; a seventh, Poems About Poetry, is due from Upper Hand Press in 2018.
Bracker is the editor of Bright Cages: The Selected Poems of Christopher Morley (University of Pennsylvania Press: 1965), co-author with Mark Wallach of Christopher Morley (Twayne Press: 1976), and editor of A Little Patch Of Shepherd’s-Thyme: Prose Passages Of Thomas Hardy Arranged As Verse (Moving Finger Press: 2013).
He has lived in San Francisco since 1973 and is a retired college English teacher.