Sesquipedalia

for Scutigera coleoptrata

You turn on the light and it’s right there.
RIGHT THERE ON THE TOILET SEAT.
It looks like a feather, a wisp of down,
until it moves like a speed-skater
on meth, all those legs swirling,
and there is no crack it can’t fit through
and there are cracks between all your books
and your whole apartment is a library—
shelves to the ceiling with hundreds of books.

You read so many books as a kid.
You learned words that no one you knew
understood—or used, so you never learned
how to pronounce them until later,
in college, where you were corrected,
with a condescending smirk.
And then you couldn’t help wishing
you’d used a word that was shorter, simpler,
smaller, with fewer legs. Less of a risk.

You look it up on the internet, and it takes
you a while, because it’s not an insect,
it’s an arthropod. You look up how
to get rid of it, and—big surprise here—
it says not to get rid of it. They don’t bite
humans, but they’re incredibly vicious
predators for lots of things you also don’t want:
Termites. Cockroaches. Bedbugs. And,
get this—all the bugs that eat books!

You remember how fast it disappeared
when you turned on the light,
and you feel almost affectionate.
You look up its long, Latin name
that you don’t know how to pronounce—
yet—
and decide to call it Scooty,
for short.

What are you looking for?