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Noon Edition

Mythology of Mantedea

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“The fact that the adult American Negro female emerges a formidable character is often met with amazement, distaste and even belligerence.”
- Maya Angelou

Torie DiMartile is a spoken word poet and a graduate student in Anthropology at Indiana University.

She has performed at the Bloomington Poetry Slam and self-published a chapbook called Slip and Score in 2014. She is a hoarder of poetry anthologies, old postcards and corny jokes.

Welcome to the Poets Weave. I'm Romayne Rubinas Dorsey. Torie, what poems have brought for us today?

 

Mythology of Mantedea

I

 

two weeks into our new house

and a praying mantis has the nerve 

to perch herself over our sink, 

stare with electric eyes 

upon our hand-me down placemats

and almost-into-our-mouth pizza slices

that we stop mid-air

Cause who ever saw a praying mantis 

so majestically green in their kitchen 

at ten pm looking like the queen of the insect amazon? 

 

She tilted her head,

a mechanic choreography 

pointed limbs slicing through air - 

a paper crane ballet 

of calculated movements

I followed her nimble body 

with a paint brush 

hoping she'd crawl on like 

any normal, plebeian bug.

 

But she rose up in a royal snap

and glared at me with a fierce sentience 

In a dance of push and pull 

I whisked her into the disposal

and churned the blades to the pitch of our screams. 

 

And I found myself glad I am not so small 

Knowing all too often being self-aware, 

a sharp beauty with fire in your stomach

and jewels in your crown 

Is reason enough to 

wash you down the drain. 

 

 

II

 

Praying mantises contain over 2,400 species,

There isn’t a mild meadow or scorched sand

that isn’t graced by a mantis.

The earliest mantis fossils are 135 million years old

She has three eyes and can turn her head 180 degrees

She has a set of discordial spines, usually four maybe five.

 

In ancient poetry the mantis is described as fearless, courageous

Her upright, triangular body indented on Greek silver coins

For ancient travelers the mantis was a northern star,

able to show you the way home.

 

Her cunning stealth and unannounced glory

A femme fatale of characters- enchantress

The pivot of her head an uncanny lure

She was named vampire, witch, demon

Unhinged and sensual

Yet still reduced to a child’s pet in the UK, Netherlands and the U.S.

 

III

 

Some of you are still stuck on the fact

that a praying mantis met my dish disposal -

gripped by an odd echo of myth 

that killing praying mantises is bad luck. 

A rumor born of childhood dares 

that killing a praying mantis is illegal

but even more, 

a slur on the sacred.

 

And I wonder, what if we treated brown women as sacred?

If we were as rapt in their cunning, 

their supernatural? 

If there was some murmur of anarchy 

behind the violence on black 

and brown bodies

I wonder if we'd treat them with as much honor

as we do a green conglomeration of pickup sticks.

 

IV

 

What land isn’t kissed by a brown woman?

What brick and mortar foundation

what spark of a movement

what fertile civilization wasn’t

built on the fossils of brown women?

What brown mamma doesn’t have a third eye

a head turned 180 degrees?

What brown woman when

the weight of the world breaks her back

doesn’t have a set of discordial spines

to make her upright again?

What brown woman hasn’t

been made into token, talisman

to sell something, maple syrup, pancakes or herself?

Hasn’t knit poetry on her chest to survive the night?

Been the flicker of warmth that men come home to?

What brown woman hasn’t been called primal enchantress?

Her cunning stealth and unannounced glory

A femme fatale of characters- enchantress

The pivot of her head an uncanny lure

Penned vampire, witch, demon

Unhinged and sensual

 

What brown woman

holding 135 million years in her womb

lauded as supernatural,

hasn’t been broken and reduced to pet

to base

to minimal

on every continent.

 

V

 

I still have dreams about that praying mantis

knowing now that I am sometimes

made to be just as small. 

Knowing all too often being self-aware, 

a sharp beauty with fire in your stomach

and jewels in your crown 

is reason enough to 

wash you down the drain.

Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis. (Azim Khan Ronnie, Wikimedia)

Torie DiMartile is a spoken word poet and a graduate student in Anthropology at Indiana University.

She has performed at the Bloomington Poetry Slam and self-published a chapbook called Slip and Score in 2014. She is a hoarder of poetry anthologies, old postcards and corny jokes.

Growing up as one of two adopted brown children and living in an Italian-American home in a small white Kentucky town, she formed a deep love for food, the outdoors and the liminal. Living life in between Black and White, her work honors the middle ground and the loneliness and resilience that can be found there.

She runs an Instagram page and a small business called Wreckage and Wonder where she educates white adoptive parents of Black and Brown children on how to cultivate and validate their children’s racial identity.

On this edition of The Poets Weave, Torie reads "Mythology of Mantedea."

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