Second Thoughts on the Spiritual Path

Beautiful wasp zombifies cockroach…
—YouTube video

If one loves Brahman with steadfast devotion,
one becomes Brahman.
By thinking of nothing but the wasp,
the cockroach is changed into a wasp.

—Sankaracharya

While reading The Asian Journals of Thomas Merton
a Catholic monk delving
into the mysteries of India—

I become infatuated with the Hindu passage he loves,
describing how one becomes divine.
How a cockroach finds its wings.
At first, the metaphor seems beautiful
till I explore Wikipedia, think twice
about being turned godly.

The emerald wasp—known for its strange sex life—
stings a cockroach to use as host for its larvae.
Injects venom to paralyze the front legs,
stings the brain, disables its escape reflex.

This jewel of a being drags the victim to its burrow
by pulling its antennae like a leash,
lays her egg inside the cockroach.

Once hatched, the baby larva chews its way
into the abdomen of its host to live as a parasite,
consuming organs in an order ensuring
the roach lives till a jeweled cocoon forms inside its body.
Analogous, I assume, to this ancient
spiritual metaphor.

Eventually, a new emerald wasp emerges
from the cockroach’s body to begin life. If this
is what the Hindu sages meant,
it would explain a lot. My indigestion,
for instance, headaches that won’t go away,
my obsession with the Alien movies
where a new insatiable life-form is incubated
inside the human.

I may rethink the spiritual quest,
though the divine consumes me even now.
The jeweled wing of it springing through
the cockroach of me—wait,

this is much too Catholic, even
Hindu, in its distaste for the mortal.

I’d rather not be a zombie, even
for the divine. Even if it means
just being a cockroach for the duration.
Even if it means remaining a pest,
wings useless for flight,
living in leaf litter,
rotting wood, holes
in decaying stumps.
As divine
as any
thing.

 

 

 

 

Dane Cervine’s new book The World Is God’s Language is published by Sixteen Rivers Press. Recent books include Earth Is a Fickle Dancer (Main Street Rag) and The Gateless Gate – Polishing the Moon Sword (Saddle Road Press). His poems have won awards from Adrienne Rich, Tony Hoagland, Atlanta Review, and Caesura, and been nominated for two Pushcarts. His work appears in The SUN, Hudson Review, TriQuarterly, Rattle, and Sycamore Review, among others publications. He lives in Santa Cruz, California.