The ladybugs are suicidal again, crawling along
the inside of my window panes, bright jots of color
against the winter light. Soon, I’ll find their dried husks
lining the sill. Which, if they were any other beetles,
wouldn’t bother me half as much. I know they’re
only trying to survive the cold, and maybe breed.
Not destroy themselves. But the end result’s the same.
At least this way they’ll spend their last days sheltered
by the thin layer of insulation in my ceiling, the white
plaster walls. And here they are again, scaling the side
of the bathroom mirror—mirror in which I see myself
reflected, watching myself watching them. It feels like
seeing my younger self fall into the arms of the man
I thought I loved. That kind of foolishness. Like a movie
you hate but have to watch again and again, if only
for the horror of it. The girl keeps living her life
the way she wants to, moving from pain to pleasure
and back again. Which, I suppose, is the privilege
of free will. She’s treading a thin line. Even now,
one of the bright red bugs is making its way under
the cover of the bathroom light, getting closer and
closer to that incandescent end. I’m looking out the window,
remembering. Looking at my own face. No one tells you
how your errors will live on and on, coloring your life
with their dark stain. How hard you’ll work to undo them.
How long you’ll fail. O little girls, o spotted darlings,
how can you know what pulls you here, what force, unseen.
Instinct. Urge. An itch. Whether for the cradle or the tomb.
Danusha Laméris’s first book, The Moons of August (Autumn House, 2014), was chosen by Naomi Shihab Nye as the winner of the Autumn House Press poetry prize. Some of her poems have been published, or are forthcoming in The Best American Poetry 2017, The New York Times, The American Poetry Review, The Gettysburg Review, Ploughshares, and Tin House. Her second book, Bonfire Opera, is forthcoming from the University of Pittsburgh Press in spring 2020. She teaches poetry independently, and is the current Poet Laureate of Santa Cruz County, California.