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Insects of France

DeMisty D. Bellinger

The sun won’t go down

It’s late and hot

and Parisians don’t seem to believe

in conditioned air.

Women go around with makeshift

paper fans, fanning their exposed throats

<<c’est chaud>>

            so hot.


Parisians don’t believe in window screens

Tonight, like last night:

a fly (une mouche)

A mosquito (un moustique)

un papillon noir all came inside

            (and a bird on my balcony

             balanced like birds do)

here bird: mouche, un moustique

but leave me the black butterfly.


My American clothes are too


And my well-oiled hair

I dodge speaking and avoid scooters

I try not smiling when that is all

I’ve ever known

            all that was ever expected of me.


A green bug lands on my brown leg

I think in English

            (insect vert)

I let it crawl the width of my thigh

            (jambe brune)

I transpose:


[           immigrant       immigration

            migrant           migration


                        alien or expatriate       ]

Music notes for one voice

            to another.


What is diaspora to this bug?

What do you call songs in unsingable keys?


Is home the same thing here?

I shoo the bug away

thinking how easily I place that word

on other places. Try to remember

where you come from. Try to know

where you’re going.




Before I reached Paris,

Three bites on the thick part of my thigh—

Two of which bunched together—

They heal, then three more

on my ankle.


There was much slapping and even a causality,

But who knows if it’s the mosquito

who has my blood? Who knows

where she travels with ready proboscis

and whether her blood-filled belly’s

content with me?


And what have their grazing left behind?

An itch rife with many diseases.


It’s silly, I know, still I imagine

my blood mingling with so many others

a confused Parisian mosquito

nattering her way around

with a heavy diasporic blood

complicated by a love of country

that does not love her back.

DeMisty D. Bellinger teaches creative writing, women's studies, and African American studies in Massachusetts. Her writing has appeared in print and online, and her chapbook, Rubbing Elbows, is available from Finishing Line Press. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and twin daughters.

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