Things That Are Filled with Grace ||| Diode

A centipede, waddling across one’s floor,
striped like fruit-stripe gum
with elegant tail wisps trailing behind—

perfected fluid
marching of leg after regimented
leg like the rippling

synchronicity of a pianist
practicing Czerny
exercises up and down the keyboard.

The giant holly-
hocks that begin the day like round, café-
bowls, with hand-

drawn lipstick-pink petals on the bottom
and warm, sticky-sweet
honeyed centers. They open themselves up

into dinner plates
by noon with a precisely engineered

of unfolding, the way collapsible
metal vegetable
steamers unfold themselves. A grasshopper

that flings itself up
out of a patch of clover in measured
cadences, with bright

flashes of marigold-yellow under-
wing, and a shower
of castanet-like clicking raining into

the air. A giant
hulk of a beetle, clinging to the string
of my porch light

like an overweight P. E. student
hanging on gym ropes, who then,
improbably, begins to maneuver

itself with clever
dexterous footwork upside down and right-
side up, then upside

down again—deftly plying the twirling
string with the practiced
muscular grace of a Cirque du Soleil

gymnast. The tiny
pale green nymphs that mistake my bedside lamp
for the moon, swirling

in clusters within the warm gold halo
of light, then pausing
to rest for a moment on the opened

pages of my book
like uneasily shifting hieroglyphs
that cast strange shadows,

causing me to misread things. And after all,
isn’t it really
just such a delicate smidgin of life

that separates love
from leave, fear from feat, spectacular
from testicular,

and grace from grief? How is it that starfish
are each perfected
in their architectural proportions

to form the ratio
of the Golden Section? Why do the leaves
of the artichoke

map the same, mathematical sequence
as pinecones, daisies,
seed heads, and cauliflower; and who tells

snails or the chambered
nautilus to initiate the in-
finite, spiraling

logarithms of the Fibonacci
series? How do bees
know which egg to select for their new queen,

nurse bees ladling
royal jelly over the larva once
she hatches, sealing

shut the royal chamber with wafers spun
from wax and silk? They
let her slumber for seven days before

she’s reawakened:
a lambent, ambered, incandescent bride
and queen, obsessed

by a hard-wired and fearless desire to throw
herself at the sun—
fierce and elusive in her skyward flight.


Lee Ann Roripaugh is the author of four volumes of poetry: Dandarians (Milkweed, Editions, 2014), On the Cusp of a Dangerous Year (Southern Illinois University Press, 2009), Year of the Snake (Southern Illinois University Press, 2004), and Beyond Heart Mountain (Penguin, 1999). She was named winner of the Association of Asian American Studies Book Award in Poetry/Prose for 2004, and a 1998 winner of the National Poetry Series. The current South Dakota State Poet Laureate, Roripaugh is a Professor of English at the University of South Dakota, where she serves as Director of Creative Writing and Editor-in-Chief of South Dakota Review.

Things That Are Filled with Grace” originally appeared in Diode, Fall 2008.