Poetry: Whirligig Beetles Swim In Circles When Agitated by Niamh Carmichael


Whirligig Beetles Swim In Circles When Agitated


I don’t think of the dull, black, pill-shaped thing that lurks

underwater in the pond behind my house as a beetle.

Instead, I think sacred scarab worshipped in Ancient Egypt;

because I love insects in theory, but not those 

who swim around my hand when I stir the waterbed and disturb 

a whirligig beetle camouflaged in the swirl of silt.

Watch the spiraling ripples of the beetle’s path as it swims

in circles, tight loop-de-loops like how I used to bike with my brother. 

Before he was angry it was only neon helmets 

and asphalt culs-de-sac (though he never understood that plural),

catching the little green lizards turned brown on our fence

and letting them bite on our ears like jewelry. 

Before the bitterness covered him like a casing

of hard black beetle armor, exoskeleton around soft flesh, baby face,

we were children together.


I remember glimpses, reflections in muddy water, of nerf guns in swamp

behind our house, leaving behind foam bullets in the muck for the snakes to eat. 

That was shiny scarab, not water whirligig beetle, but I miss those days 

when I loved you less theoretically. 

Now we’re squirming, swimming, segmented legs on dull shell, pulling away 

at the thought of creepy crawlies in wet dirt. What do we have

in common except mother and father, and the same eyes?

You’re just young, I am told. Nobody likes their brothers at your age.


I used to wish we were twins in the hope that maybe then he would understand 

me. We were two beetle-shaped peas in a pod, swimming

in circles together, and now it’s as if we live in two separate 

ponds, opposite ends of the same swamp.

Yet when he shows me a little green lizard, now tailless, saved from our cat, 

and walks with me to set it in the marsh mud, I find some

similarities beyond just our eyes (they are our father’s eyes),

and my brother and I could swim together again.`

Niamh Carmichael is a writer currently based in Charleston, South Carolina. When not writing, she enjoys baking, playing violin, and spending time with her dog.



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