The Mantis

She stands a watch that none can imitate;

the sentinel of orchard sprig and vine,

In perfect stillness solemnly her wait

thwarts impatient passing of the time.


One hollows at the shimmer of her eyes

that, mounted in her fearless head of spade,

glare openly, yet so discreet, so sly

these orbs of ancient oriental jade.


She has no movement save but in her breath

that almost imperceptibly she takes;

in sacred silence, this prophetess of death,

appears to sleep, though ever she awakes.


Her hands are folded tight in fervent prayer,

but praying she is less than preying for

what unsuspecting preyed-on victim there

might chance upon the mantis nevermore.


Who of her kind would court this puissant queen,

allured by vicious elegance of poise

unto that lusty ritual supreme

and mount her sleek gossamer she employs,


is hostage to an irony profound;

that when he enters union with his mate,

it was ordained that cruelly fixed and bound

this deed would end his short-lived shallow fate.


For while his phallic rhythm carries on

our queen proceeds to long devour his head,

and lavishly consume with a rare wanion

his whole flesh that still persists though he is dead.


When at last her sanguine urge is satisfied,

her lace-wings preened, her hands washed clean and dry,

she resumes with calm reserve and solemn pride

her stately pose of prayerful preying on the vine.


Written May 13, 2001

Photograph by Paul van Hoof


About A. S. Ellis

I am always learning. Always. And that is as it should be.
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2 Responses to The Mantis

  1. There's a bird says:

    “For while his phallic rhythm carries on”

    Is this anatomically correct? I’ve never seen preying mantis mate before, but this seems more animal than insect. Just curious.

    • A. S. Ellis says:

      Well, my entomological pursuits ceased several years ago, and years in advance of writing the poem. So, I cannot say that I know the scientific answer to the question.

      Your curiosity, however, does remind me of something E. B. White said of humor which may similarly be implied:

      “Humor can be dissected as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind.”

      Know that I am grinning as I write this. 😉

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