Exoskeletons and Wolfpacks

Damage-tolerant, the exoskeleton of Nosoderma diabolicus {see asphalt-textured beetle, upside-down, legs motioning for ground} withstands 149 newtons {see SUV, soccer practice, orange slices}.

Glitter stickers substitute for her eyebrows.
UFOs beaming up pepperoni pizza
zip across on her socks, peaking out
the one-size-fits-all youth gown.

A compositional analysis rich in protein {see crustaceans, seafarers, expanse} creates the impregnable microstructure of N. diabolicus’s armor.

Her mom admins the online group: Teslyn’s Wolfpack.
There are 798 followers: friends, parents,
neighbors, teachers, coaches, acquaintances.
Like the forest, we’re held together by web lines
seen only when weight is shifted back and forth.

I lied just then, when I said acquaintances.

The interlacing shells allow for a force 39,000 times the beetle’s body weight to be exerted onto it {see the weight of an IV drip, the wait of extended-stay hotels, the Wate longinus beetle in the Carabidae family, the only species in the genus Wate}.

Her first and last name stay on the school roster,
a promise of return. Each day we file A for Absent.
We’ll catch her up next summer, herding her
into eighth grade with the friends she made in sixth,
forget about the seventh: the leukemia year.

An MRI extracts the empty picture of N. diabolicus’s torso {see cathedral}, organs hiding in nooks of laced shells and interior support structures.

My memory vying with updates:
her baldness, reclined by a window.
I lost a phrase she liked so much.
Humming, hoping it will come back
to sing her into fullness.

Companies invest millions of grant dollars for scientists to tear apart N. diabolicus in hopes engineers can replicating the structure {see armored tanks, decimated roads, eroded cities}.

Teachers in the lounge miss her flame hair,
from before she had a Wolfpack and glitter eyebrows,
when she was special not for being a fighter,
but for voguing for pictures and hugging her friends.

The body, measuring two-centimeter-long, withstands forces ten times that of any known predator {see martin, opossum, cancer}.

I’m 12 weeks behind the pack,
scrolling backwards in time:
she is embraced by angels;
all your prayers and love now please;
positive vibes for blood pressures;
no sleep tonight, just prayers;
the doctors are keeping eyes on our baby girl;
levels aren’t as high as we’d hoped, send good vibes
.

The hardened forewings, protecting the softer tapestries of flight, sutured together permanently, losing N. diabolicus the power to flee {see escape, spring break, #vacay}.

It was my first time working in a school,
around those shifting growth plates of teens.
I thought their tolerance of puberty’s newton force
made their interlocking-cells impervious to cancer.

As is average for beetles in the Zopheridae family, N. diabolicus lives for 2 years {see above}.

First Published in Fever Dream, Winter 2022 Issue

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