The ticks I pick from your flesh

have the verve of John Donne’s flea

but much more adhesive

with the fervor of Lyme Disease.


The garden’s a death trap,

the primrose and forget-me-nots

funereal and dungeon-breathed.

Spreading composed mulch to conceal


the yawn of a hundred open graves

I tire of myself and slacken

almost enough to lie down

and allow the grubs to engage me


in their shy waxen petulance.

Meanwhile in pale innocence

you punctuate yourself with ticks

by kneeling to yank the weeds


eager to elbow out the flowers.

Something about our seasonal

bloodletting lingers. Sprains,

torn tendons, even broken wrists


spike the long dark winters. Blackflies

riot in spring, summer features

splinters from stacking firewood

to season before the cold arrives.


But the ticks linger all year long—

their hard metal bodies, springy

eight legs, driven by blood-thirst

ripe as a rage for celebrity.


Arachnids, not insects, they deploy

their motivation so adroitly

we feel them crawling through our sleep.

In the north, they gang up on moose


and kill with a quarter million

individual nibbles per pelt.

They stick to us both, but lately

you’ve been sporting them the way


ex-smokers sport nicotine patches

on parts of the body that matter.

I flush them into our septic tank

where they probably thrive and plot


a future so bloody no one

but ticks will survive, draining

the blush of sunset to leave

a fog-gray landscape writhing.


by William Doreski


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