Poetry: The Caterpillars | clivejames.com
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The Caterpillars

On the headland to the lighthouse,
a brown detour of caterpillars
crimped end-to-end across the road.

Poke away the pilot and the line
would break up, rioting,
fingering for the scent.
Put him back, they'd straighten.
You could imagine them humming
their queue numbers.

I've only seen such blind following
in the patient, dull dole queues,
or old photos of the Doukhobors
the world's first march of naked people.

I watched over the line for hours
warding off birds whose wings, getting close,
were like the beating of spoons
in deep bowls. I put a finger to the ground
and soft prickles pushed over,
a warm chain of hair.

This strange sect, wrapped in the sun
like their one benefit blanket
marched in brotherhood and exile.

Later, a group of boys
(their junta-minds set on torture),
picked off the leader.
Each creature contorted,
shut into its tight burr.
I could only stand like a quiet picket
and watch the rough panic.

I remember them, those caterpillars,
pacifists following their vegetable passion -
lying down in the road and dying
when they could no longer touch each other.