By Paige Gilchrist
October 15, 2023
October 15, 2023
What’s an omen these days if it’s not packaged with flash
and scale? Locking eyes with a gray wolf across a snowy field.
A broad-winged hawk crossing your path. Symbolism,
as if leaping off an oracle card, portending something profound.
Instead, I am being visited by an influx of millipedes.
Harbingers of what? Sure-footedness? Grounding?
Maybe a nudge to observe and bow down. Their legs
tiny brush bristles. Like featherweight prongs
that oscillate as they move, two by two
by two—waving ruffles of a crinoline petticoat
peeking from beneath an exoskeleton skirt. Millipedes
descending by the dozens, body segments multiplying as they grow,
like fawn-colored seed beads slipped on a string. Politely invasive.
Only too willing, the moment their dandelion-puff antennae intuit me,
to slink between baseboard and floor—a move anyone
who has ever been bashful at a party has longed for.
It’s how they’ve gotten by all these millennia, I guess,
without biting, stinging, or destroying what’s here.
Belly down. Living close to the ground. Silently cycling
nutrients back into the soil. They were the first of us to crawl
to land from sea. Each eyelash-like leg whispering
around a tiny opening that learned to breathe.
I add resourcefulness and adaptability to the list of quiet
lessons they bring. Then marvel at their ability to curl,
with more suppleness than any yogi I know, into a coil
fixed as a newborn’s finger grip when I lift them to carry them out—
an ancient reflex to protect their soft undersides and their hearts
which extend the entire length of their bodies.
Paige Gilchrist lives in Asheville, NC. After years in nonfiction publishing, she now teaches the movement and meditation practices of yoga and studies and writes poetry. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Amethyst Review, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, Juniper, Kakalak, ONE ART, and The Great Smokies Review.