Researching Ideas

Incident: My one-year-old son Shane was under a tangle of morning glories on our outdoor deck, when a ladybug alighted on his arm. He marveled at its bright red wingcase that looked like a round piece of candy. I beamed at the sight, proud my son was learning about the beauty of nature.

Then, without warning, Shane popped the bug into his mouth, giggling as it slid down his throat.

I knew immediately that I would base a poem on this incident. (All poets must learn to observe life closely, ready to base an idea on any unusual incident or moment.) In this case I had witnessed Shane, in his innocence, admiring nature ... or so I thought. Instead he consumed nature and went merrily about his business. That was irony, and irony makes for good poems.

Beyond that, however, I didn't know what the "truth" of the incident meant. Perhaps Shane was just hungry. The more I thought about the idea behind the poem, the more it eluded me. And I resisted the urge to write personally about my son swallowing an insect because only I might find that precious.

So I visited the library and read up on ladybugs (officially known as ladybird beetles). I began with the encyclopedia and learned some interesting facts. To wit: The bug is named after the Virgin Mary and considered divine because one variety, Coccinella 7-punctata, has seven dots on its back. Folklore suggests it can cure colic, among other things. Finally, the beetle helped inspire a popular children's rhyme.

I copied some references and did more research about beetles in general, consulting books on entomology and ecology.

The result was this poem, an elegy of sorts for the unlucky ladybug that landed on Shane's arm:

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