The Insect Sonnets by Paul Brookes

(c) Marcel Herms
(c) Marcel Herms
1. Sweet Pollen

Bigger wing beat gusts me from sweet pollen
billows, I must stick to its surface amid
buffet and blast. Now heavier, taken,
away from scented trail back home I skid.
Track my trail through vibration pulses, map
I will dance when home is reached to tell all
where sweet pollen will be found, waggle tap
the route after unloading my food haul.
As light fades our head sensors flop, my legs
wrap around others, I rehearse my days
forage, retrace my flight, my complex steps
mark vibration changes that radiate.
Bright warmth lifts our heads from sleep to again,
find our memory way, avoid harsh rain. 

2. We Poisoners

l Ingest, store poison for feathers, her. 
Changed in white she must be stillness.
I wait outside her cocoon, her wings fettered,
unstretched, un-inflated, I pass fullness,
into her with a generous capsuled gift,
attracted by her poison plumes, invasive
insects mandibles, legs glued globule gripped. Our red warnings briefly adhesive.
Our bulbous bairns nosh on green flesh deadly
to others. Chew it to stalks till hunger
crawls ever broader, masses in deathly
carcasses litter path to fresh fodder.
Death and sex infest grub and danger times.
Wrapped as one, alert and vital and mine 

3. A Stag Beetle

Scratch decayed wood until it splinters. Hunt 
these spikes for soft white wood swallow inside. 
Indigestible I make a hard front, 
swallow soil ready to throw back up outside. 
Create a smooth cover, give myself horns, 
six legs, two wings all soft and white. Don't know 
how I know how, where, and what shapes to form, 
nor what light is, till lust makes me go, 
shift this bulk, these wings buzz into hot bright. 
There can be a few in battle for her. 
My heavy horns twist, locked in long fight 
to straddle her. Must turn them all over. 
Hungered in dark most of my life. 
Brief lusty flight, fight and sex in the light

4.  A Turnip Moth

Under I wait till dark. Light lessens. Beak 
stab shakes where I am. Dark. Out from Under 
chew tender stem. Move back Under when heat 
of many Over brightens. Asunder 
I dig. Push asunder. Turn and turn and 
turn. Under under. Legs tendril lengthen. 
Softness to float in the Over expand. 
I hear now, inside trembles at sound when 
others outside call in dark to know where 
they are, and what meals move around the dark 
Soft and wet I push asunder to air. 
Listen in bright while softness rustles hard. 
Even insects remember their young times. 
Pests like weeds try to survive humankind. 

5. Cockroaches

In dark wet safe. Lowness my leg hairs tell. 
If Else moves I know change in this tight Air. 
My young molt, as I did, get harder shells. 
Company is good. In dark am aware 
food with my two long, long noses that come 
out of my head, bounce, dangle, flick in front. 
Good grub I tell others when I find some. 
All will be eaten always on this hunt. 
My young eat my waste among mounds 
of cast 
skins, egg cases and the dead. A crack let 
me in to snuggle in warm corners fast 
settle in your grease, droppings, food for pets 
You horrify me with your pure cleanliness. 
Live in shittip, I'll join you in the mess

6. The Housefly

My feet smell you first. I may leave my waste 
on your skin, or on your meal. I adore 
your sweat and dead skin. I make tasty paste 
by vomiting on it. My sticky pads for 
walking upside down. Drawn towards sunlight, 
I bounce back off an invisible force. 
If still I jump her or bang her in flight. 
So many hers to have can't stop or pause. 
Born into waste, I squirmed, deeper under. 
I changed, climbed towards warm daylight, stretched wings. 
As warm light disappears I find shelter. 
sleep. Tomorrow repeat everything. 
We'd wallow in waste if there were no flies. 
Praise them, their short lives, work and enterprise 

7. "I Forage"

I forage, chew wood pulp for my babies 
who give me sweetness in return. When 
they're bigger I'll dismember aphids, fleas 
and spiders to take home for them. 

My queen who gave birth to me will outlive 
me. At night I'm still, or repair fly 
babies broken rooms. At warm light give 
flight ,and scratch out fibre until I die. 

I lay my own babies once, another 
found out and ate them. I tend to my queen's. 
As light dims sooner and days get colder 
I get slower, stiller, food for the dream. 

It's too easy, a mechanically 
designed existence, reality is messy

8. Before I

Before I break the Surface of the world 
I live another life beneath where light 
falls differently. I eat Small that curl 
in front, while Larger see me tasty bite. 
Hidden behind long stems I wait and wait. 
Quick squirt of breath behind to catch the Slow. 
Grab it with my hooks drag it to my gape. 
Climb Up a stem and shed Old Skins as I grow. 
Need forces me to break Surface in Dark 
where I learn to breathe before final shuck. 
Let limbs and wings harden into flights start. 
He grabs my neck, I arch my back, Eggstruck. 
I return to Suface, slice open stem. 
Lay my eggs for life to begin again. 

9.  As An Egg
I fell to the Bottom of a dark world, 
I dug beneath the Flow when hunger's need 
led me to what falls and lands, what unfurled 
as my mouth brushes grazed hardness for feed. 

Sometimes I hid under these hardnesses, 
when Larger mouths turned, tipped others over. 
As grew, left behind smaller carcasses 
of myself. At my last shuck I massed air 

that blew me to a brighter warm Surface, 
where these wings dried out, I climbed stems to shed, 
the last part of myself. Now I join the race 
into swarm to be grabbed, give birth, float dead. 

I lived most of my life bottom feeding 
the light, continued self before yielding. 

10. Barkfly

Born beneath a spun web into a herd, 
we grind lichen in our jaws out of ruts 
and channels in the Tallness of the world. 
We chew the dead too. Move as one clutch. 

A slender rod from my mouth braces me 
while I prise up the food, clean the Tallness. 
Our mouths also spin layers wrap gently 
round and over a billow of whiteness. 

Once the Tallskin cleaned we eat this cover. 
With icy coldness coming our herd thins. 
I will have babies, I am a mother. 
I lay and web my herd on new Tallskin. 

Some of us have wings, some of us don't. Some 
run rather than fly when danger comes. 

11. Grasshopper

I break my hard shell against sharp cold,
find soft shoots and grass to eat in the warm.
As I grow out my young selves into old
I eat tougher stems, and my wings take form.

My stomach hears sounds. droplets from above
knock you off of a stem, drown you in their fall.
My large back legs move me up into rough
air which thunders inside, I land and call

rub leg against wing, she arrives, is bigger
than I. I climb her. Droplets break a wing,
knock her sideways so I topple, shiver
onto sodden soil, float into dying.

Here I look into world as it passes.
Drown in this flow as it flutters, flashes.

12. The Stonefly

Above the Flow, under the Hard I rest.
I have no mouth to eat. I must find her.
Masses of us move with the Flow, find best
place to change, avoid quick mouths of hunger

as they rise through the Flow, know where we're bound.
Wait for our small bodies to arrive
above. Survivors climb ashore. I pound
the ground with my stomach, then listen. Strive

to hear her answering tap and we pair
She quick dips her our eggs into the Flow.
I must tap again, meet more breed and share
until no more changes to undergo.

I avoided being food for others,
so I could be myself in another.

13.  A Thrips

Once out of my egg I suck fresh plant juice.
fall to the ground, find dark under dead leaves.
New wings clap and fling me in air, let loose
my body into sky. I sense her needs.

Another is here. We flick our bellies
into each other, and kill with our teeth.
While we fight a male moves in to best please
her. I kill one, flick other off the leaf.

She is bigger than me. We swap signals.
I climb up. Stroke her sides with my mid legs.
We link. I give of myself. Ends in pulls,
to break apart. Cuts stem she lays our eggs.

She outlives me, but I will still go on.
It is all about going on, once we're gone.

14. Earwigs

We crawl out of our eggs and eat them.
Mam guards us against those that would eat us,
feeds us what she's caught or found, dead stems,
hard and soft shelled, rotted out of darkness.

Shimmery semi circular hind wings I first fold lengthwise, then crosswise curl my belly, use my pincers tuck in last of exposed wing. Mam ate all unwise

young who didn't leave her. I left her nest.
I investigate all nook, cranny, slit.
I smell her, tap, stroke her with my forceps.
We make a home, she lays, insists I flit.

Even home is temporary. All fleet.
I hide in darkness, wings folded and neat.

15. An Aphid

Born pregnant, I pierce stem suck plant sap. 
They keep away those that would eat us. 
They stroke our sides, encourage from our backs 
sweet droplets. If no sap left they take us 

to fresh soft plants. They tore off my fresh wings 
so I have to stay here and suck this sap. 
I grew them because we were sucking 
dry. They only want the sweetness off our backs. 

My young pop out of me, all pregnant . 
The ants carried us over to fresh sap. 
Out of myself my young pierce new plant. 
I watch ants sip the sweetness off their backs. 

We are kept producing sweetness and young. 
until we die, cosseted all our lifelong. 

16. A Pond Skater

My front legs grab a snorkel, pull it out. 
I suck juices from its owner, my four 
other legs balancing on bubbles pout. 
So if wave comes I'll rise to waters floor. 

Astride her if she does not submit I'll 
tap the water for predators to come. 
She's under me. I make sure she knows she'll 
be eaten first. She submits to my thrum. 
I flew here when I was small, attracted 
by its glints of light I saw from above. 
When food is scarce our young are snacks. 
A tongue eats me if I'm not quick enough. 

Speed and alertness to subtle changes 
in vibrations around me mark dangers. 

17. A Whirligig Beetle (for Steve Ely)

I see Above and Below in same look. 
My foul billows deter large mouths beneath. 
Once lived Below, caught food when I was hooked 
to bottom by my stomach anchors teeth. 

I breathed through gills, impelled climbed to Above, 
clambered up stem, hooks dug in I hung there, 
from spit and some dirt, I spun enough 
to change my long body to short, rounder. 

Dead and dying I find on this Surface 
I capture with my front legs. If all dries, 
I'll climb a stem, unpack wings out their case, 
rise to find a reflection from the skies. 

I paddle in circles, dive Below, climb 
Above to avoid dangerous times.  

photo provided by Andy MacGregor
18. The Green Lacewing (for Andy MacGregor)

Suspended in air on a thread of spit 
from a leaf I am born.I suck juices 
out of each one, their dried out shells I stick 
onto myself, hunt more. Sip their oozes. 

Older now I only feed on honeydew, 
nectar and pollen. My stomach hears her 
trembled reply to my song passes through 
leaf to her. Feel her resonant glimmer. 

When Colder arrives I hide in dead leaves. 
My colour fades until Warmer return. 
With my bright wing colour back I receive 
an urge to search for sweetness and relearn 

in a fresh new world its sources, and soon 
I will sing to her again, hear her tune

19. The Head Lice

I need to find a place to lay my eggs.
Find a spot close to a clearing. Bottom
of this stem. Not humid or wet, perfect.
I cement in just before the long stem

enters the Blood Field. They'll not starve here, stab
for a regular blood meal in Darkness.
My six claws help me climb Tallness, nab
a He to make more young. Avoid Brightness.

Sometimes sudden these Tallness rent apart.
We scatter for cover. Dark is safety.
So many young die when the cleansing starts.
We can't be drowned, but combed carefully.

We live in your tall forests, you sustain
us with your lifeblood, and pests we remain.

20. The Flea

Young, I ate my own shed skin, others hair, 
waste, dead skin cells. I was all mouth, no legs. 
I avoided light, burrow into the threadbare. 
I fold in half, spin silk around myself. 

It is sticky. I deliberately 
gather up sand,soil, threads, bulk the inside 
with silk. I get legs. Still. Wait stealthily, 
for passing heat to make me leap outside. 

My body is hard plated. Hairs secure 
me in the close fur. I puncture, pump warm 
feed into my stomach. He is here. Sure 
He'll have me, claws clasped, legs wrapped to my form. 

I can't bear young if I starve. I will keep 
Waiting for passing warm to make me leap . 

21. The Snakefly

Vigorously tremor my abs for long 
time, answer His dogged drawn out judders . 
His signals more intense stronger 
than mine. Hear my wing flutter. 

We hear one another up through our legs. 
His quivers vibrating mine.When He stops 
signaling, I make short vigorous thrums. 
Our antennae shake. We touch gobs, 

fluttering wings. Lunge and bite. Together 
we arch, intertwine feelers, mouths contact. 
We graze cheeks. He lunges, drives me hither. 
I start on him, sometimes. Start the attacks. 
Our faces touch, again. He lunges, sends 
me backwards. We walk off, separate wends. 

The Unresolveables (An Heroic Crown Sonnet Sequence) by Paul Brookes at (sonnets 1-15)

Anthology Post: Finding a Wonderland in Alice by Paul Brookes (poetry)

3 Poems by Paul Brookes in Fevers of the Mind:   Her Fiftieth, Her Fur Elise, A Black Bead

Anthology Post: Finding a Wonderland in Alice by Paul Brookes (poetry)

1.         Her Hole

A rabbit hole falls into her.

The pocket watch looks at the rabbit

and know it’s late.


The big hand claps the little hand

to see such fun.


How will the door enter Alice?

Alice says  I am cake. Eat me.


The door takes a bite of her hand.

It grows and grows

I am too big to enter you, now,

says the door.

I am a bottle. Drink me,


The door sups her

and enters her.

2.         Shuffle

A pack of playing cards

decide to play inside her.


They shuffle her into black

and red, divide her into suits,


Her heart becomes diamonds

Her hands spades,

Her legs clubs

Her torso hearts.


Alice says Off with her head!

to the Queen of her heart,

but the Queen topples

the suits and escapes.


Alice has two thumbs:

Tweedledee and Tweedledum

she twiddles in thought.

3.         Tea Party

Teapot is fast asleep

curled inside the dormouse

curled inside Alice.


Her table lays the cloth.

The cloth places the teapot,

cups and saucers.

A hat and watch sit on

the only two chairs.


Take a seat.

They say in chorus.


“There are no seats”

Alice answers.

All the seats taken then.


Is it the month of your time?

Ask the hat and the watch


“It’s ALWAYS the month of my time

while I’m alive.


You ought to eat and drink less.

You’ll get fat.


I  have had my fill, she replies

You haven’t had anything


Less is more, she answers

and leaves the table

inside her

4.         The Door

Suddenly she feels the alarm

of  the biological pocket watch

inside her.


Where, o where could they be.

O, my little hand, o my big hand.

Alice will kill me if I can’t find her

bracelet and mobile.


Alice wants to say she has those

already but searches her pockets

and can’t find anything.


A door sits beside her

as she begins to cry.

Through her tears she sees

a painting of a tree on the door.


Soon her tears make waves,

she swims, but her arms

get tired, so she clambers

on the door where she is dry.


She thinks she fell asleep

and opens the tree on the door

and finds herself on the naughty step

of some stairs and a voice says:


“Is that you, Alice? You spend

far too much time outside.

Go inside and get some fresh

air and vitamin D from the sun.”


She checks her wrist and pockets

and sighs. The tears

must have washed the bracelet

back on her wrist, mobile in her pocket.


5.         The Mushroom

sits on a caterpillar

behind Alice’s eyes

The mushroom engrossed

in its mobile phone,


Alice says to it:

How are you?


I love change too much.

Change isn’t quick enough,

Says the mushroom.

This Caterpillar should have

pupated and flown.


Why? Asks Alice.


I’m not sure. You

and I should be wrinklies.

You a middle aged woman,

and I mulch for something

creative and growing.


Time is too slack. Should

buck its ideas up. If you see

it about give what it for from me.


And Alice tries but can get

no more from mobiled mushroom.

6.         The Watch

She hears the biological pocket watch inside her

say  I’m slow, so slow. I’ll be early

and Alice wants me

not too early, not too late

but prompt. O, my little hand,

my big hand.


In its more haste less speed

Alice sees something drop

from its pocket.


It is a silver nomination bracelet,

and a mobile phone.


Alice picks them up

and shouts after the watch

but it has gone.


So she tries on the bracelet

and it fits. The mobile won’t

work because you have

 to key in

the correct code.


That’ll teach it to look after things,

she thinks.

7.         Reduces

A court rises in her.

A scroll unfurls and reads from

her biological pocket watch

Tarts have stolen the Knave.


Alice is the judge.

Alice is the Knave.

The judge is the accused.

The accused is the judge.


Testimony transcribes the witnesses.

The spaces between their words testify.


Hat says the party is always ending.

He does not know when

it began to end.


Off with the head

of the guilty, Alice says.

Evidence is an atom.


Alice is guilty, says

the heart of the Queen.


Alice feels herself getting smaller.

She cannot see over

her desk.


Alice has disappeared,

says her pocket watch

Everything gets smaller.

Bracelet and mobile left on the chair.


Alice feels these are the worst

days of her death that glorious

summer afternoon she finds herself

beneath a tree in a stranger place.


Paul Brookes is a shop asst. His chapbooks include The Headpoke and Firewedding (Alien Buddha Press, 2017),  She Needs That Edge (Nixes Mate Press, 2017 2018) The Spermbot Blues (OpPRESS, 2017), Please Take Change (, 2018), As Folk Over Yonder ( Afterworld Books, 2019). He is a contributing writer of Literati Magazine and Editor of Wombwell Rainbow Interviews. Recently had work broadcast on BBC Radio 3 The Verb. Paul also runs a poetry blog site for book reviews, art, poetry, and more! Follow on Twitter @PaulDragonwolf1 “Curator and Editor of Wombwell Rainbow Book Interviews and poetry and artwork challenges”. YouTube site: “Poetry Is A Bag For Life”, Soundcloud is “The Wombwell Rainbow” Facebook: Paul Brookes – Writer and Photographer

The Unresolveables (An Heroic Crown Sonnet Sequence) by Paul Brookes at (sonnets 1-15)

3 Poems by Paul Brookes in FOTM Poetry Digest Issue 2 Her Fiftieth, Her Fur Elise, A Black Bead

Featured image is from Sincerely Media.

3 Poems by Paul Brookes in Fevers of the Mind: Her Fiftieth, Her Fur Elise, A Black Bead


You would have been

fifty this mayday, sis

five in the car, you drive.

nail in the tyre, too much

wine last night you celebrate

a workmate’s birthday

drive down the motorway

to pick up your son from school

a bottle of wine a night

amasses fat in your face

a business built from zilch

debts you hide from view

grieving for a mother

dead three years

bumps in the road

nails in your tire

car leaps over reservation

somersaults onto bank

and back again

the other four crawl out

sit on the bank

watch firemen cut you out

your excess weight

squashed against steering column

the only one to die

only thirty five

finally, with mum

I celebrate your fiftieth

my dear, dear love.

Her Fur Elise

I awake to Beethoven as Mam taps the upright

Piano downstairs in the through lounge

where morning light highlights dark brown dining table

And varnished coffee table both polished

with Pledge until you see yourself. Later

chemo will make her petite fingers fat,

Fur Elise break into fragments as disease progresses

and piano sold as her hands come to rest.

A Black Bead

I was given in Fifties by an Indian guru

in Madras with advice “Keep this

and you’ll be alright.” Correctly guessed

I had two girlfriends.

Eighty one now with asbestosis

a cough that hacks​

at his body more each time we meet.

-You’re so thin dad?

-He said I’d be dead at eighty two.

-Where is it?

-I can’t find it.

-I’d best start preparing now.

-It’s a joke,

he says and spits

into his half full spitbag.

I find the blue paper

he wrote the prophecy on

dated 1962

the year I was conceived,

and take a photo of it with my mobile.

I give it to him

in the hope he’ll notice

it says he’ll die at 84.

He died at 83.

BIO: Paul Brookes is a shop asst. His chapbooks include The Fabulous Invention Of Barnsley, (Dearne Community Arts, 1993). The Headpoke and Firewedding (Alien Buddha Press, 2017), A World Where and She Needs That Edge (Nixes Mate Press, 2017, 2018) The Spermbot Blues (OpPRESS, 2017), Port Of Souls (Alien Buddha Press, 2018),Please Take Change (, 2018)

Forthcoming Stubborn Sod, (Alien Buddha Press, 2019), As Folk Over Yonder ( Afterworld Books, 2019). He edits The Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

greyscale photo of grand piano

The Unresolveables (An Heroic Crown Sonnet Sequence) by Paul Brookes at (sonnets 1-15)

Anthology Post: Finding a Wonderland in Alice by Paul Brookes (poetry)

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