Bill Holm is a brilliant poet and essayist from southwestern Minnesota. His book called "Box Elder Bug Variations" is a favorite of mine. I think of it today because the annual box elder bug invasion has begun. Bugs by the thousands have converged on our front porch, looking (apparently) for someplace to hunker down for the winter.
The story, which may be apocryphal, is that Holm, teaching at Southwest Minnesota State University, got disgusted with the poems his students were writing, in part because the students were trying too hard to be profound -- choosing weighty subjects like love and death and beauty and war. Holm was in mid-rant when a box elder bug crawled across his desk. He said he could write a great poem about a goddamn box elder bug. And, by gum, he did. It turned into a whole book of poems.
Here's my favorite.
THOUGH DIFFICULT, IT IS POSSIBLE TO KILL BOXELDER BUGS. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED, YOU MIGHT TRY THIS METHOD
Take two bricks.
Creep deliberately up
Behind the boxelder bug,
Being careful not to sing --
This will alert him.
In a graceful flowing gesture,
Something like a golf swing
Or reaching for your lover in the dark,
Gather up the boxelder bug
On the surface of the left brick
Bringing the right brick
At the same time firmly down
Together with the left brick.
There will be loud crashing,
Like broken cymbals,
Maybe a breaking of brick, and
If you are not careful,
Your own voice rising.
When the brick dust has settled
And you have examined your own hands
Carefully, You will not see the boxelder bug.
There is a small hole in the brick
And he he is exploring it,
Calmly, like a millionaire
In an antique shop.
Holm is is one of a small cabal of writers and raconteurs from southwestern Minnesota (Montevideo, Minneota, Luvern) . Verlyn Klinkenborg is one. Another is Howard Mohr. Tomorrow, a selection from Mohr's "How to Tell a Tornado."