Nightcrawlers and Catalpa Worms

Nightcrawlers and Catalpa Worms

as kids
after a soaking rain
we'd go out at night
with our flashlights
to catch
nightcrawlers
to take fishing
down at the river
a few days later
once the muddy water cleared
the current dropped
and the shoreline dried
from the soaking rain
before

we'd put those crawlers
in a five gallon bucket
filled with dirt
and somebody said
torn up newspapers
and spent coffee grounds
worked well 
for keeping them alive
too

we'd fill the bucket
with all that stuff
then put it in the barn
where it stayed cooler
through summer's droughts 
than anywhere else
but not cool enough
at summer's peak
to keep them 
alive
no matter how much water
we gave them

when they died
from the heat
that mucky bucket
of dead worms
papers
and coffee grounds
turned vile
as a sickening
five pound bucket
of stewing
deep-summer shit

but we knew
it wasn't only the heat
that threatened
for our catch
it was the worms
themselves 
that could be
a terrible thing
too

we all knew
if you broke a nightcrawler
pulling it out 
of its moist burrow
you had to throw 
that one away
cause a dead worm
mixed in with all the rest
kills the whole bucket
in no time flat
leaving you with nothing
but a putrid
bucket full of mess
a bucketful of fetid death
a bucketful of wasted effort
a bucketful of wasted potential
left for kids 
that didn't have much more
than their fishing poles

don't know why
i think so much about nightcrawlers
and particularly
the bad ones
that spoil the whole bucket
it's like an itchy throat
giving way
to a hacking cough
easily relieved
by a drink
but deciding
to stay focused
on the bad one
that turns all the rest 
to rot
instead of all the others
that were just fine
before the broken one
turned the whole 
bucket
bad

and this congestion
of bad earthworms
so easily relieved
by a measly
shot of spray
like thinking instead
about catalpa worms
that we used for bait too
luxurious
neon green and black
harmlessly horned
beautiful and delicate
so unlike
the lowly
nightcrawler

glamorous
and fickle
catalpa worms
primed
for metamorphosis
unlike the ignoble
clammy
nightcrawler
whose repugnant charms
i still can't ignore

the lustrous caterpillar
of ebony and yellowed jade 
rarely found
even back then
on the underbelly of leaves
among the catalpa tree's beans
but now
i never see them
never at all
on any of their trees
not even
the evidence
of their gnawing
around the edges 
of leaves
they seem to be all gone
which may be the reason
i think so much
about nightcrawlers now
instead of the lovely 
neon caterpillars
anymore

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