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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 23: 28 April 2024
Poem: 132 words
By Roy J. Beckemeyer

Esperanto Invertebrata


<em>Lepisma saccharina</em> [urban silverfish]: (c. 1890) Drawing by H. Morin
Lepisma saccharina [Urban Silverfish], drawing by [H.] Morin, c. 1890*


They had always been there, slithering 
beneath the rubber-stamped envelope 
that had held the library card, lurking 
in the cracked spine, insinuated into 
the thinnest of spaces, places heady 
with the aromatic miasma of decades-old paste. 

Now they reaped their banquet, here 
among broken window glass and toppled shelves 
jumbled among books, tomes tight-mouthed 
or gaping, soddened—mildew and mold drawing 
second-hand sustenance from obsolete memoirs 
of ink pressed onto the yellowed starch-rich sheets 
of rag remnant and tree shred. 

And here, glowing as some of them were in their own 
radioactive light, certain ones danced a sort of code, 
antennae tapping, cerci outlining in amplified cursive 
the lost languages’ old parables: stories and lies 
and truths, retelling them all in the new Esperanto—
the chittering semaphoric translations of silverfish. 



*Author’s Note:

The image above comes from the Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary (1890-1907). The copyrights for that book have expired and this image is in the public domain. See Wikimedia Commons.

Roy J. Beckemeyer’s
Issue 23 (April 2024)

poetry collections include The Currency of His Light (Turning Plow Press, 2023) and Mouth Brimming Over (Blue Cedar Press, 2019). Stage Whispers (Meadowlark Books, 2018) won the 2019 Nelson Poetry Book Award. Amanuensis Angel (Spartan Press, 2018) comprises ekphrastic poems inspired by modern artists’ depictions of angels. His first book, Music I Once Could Dance To (Coal City Press, 2014), was a 2015 Kansas Notable Book. With Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, he co-edited Kansas Time+Place: An Anthology of Heartland Poetry (Little Balkans Press, 2017). His poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize (2015, 2020, and 2024) and for Best of the Net (2018), and was selected for The Best Small Fictions 2019.

A retired engineer and scientific journal editor, Beckemeyer is also a nature photographer who, in his spare time, researches the mechanics of insect flight and the Paleozoic insect fauna of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Alabama. He lives in Wichita, Kansas, where he and his wife recently celebrated their 62nd anniversary.

Please visit author’s website for more information about his books, as well as links to selected works, and to interviews and readings (scroll down his About page for the latter link-list).

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Megarhyssa, ekphrastic poem by Beckemeyer in MacQueen’s Quinterly (Issue 14, August 2022), nominated by MacQ for the Pushcart Prize

The Color of Blessings in MacQueen’s Quinterly (Issue 5, October 2020), nominated by MacQ for the Pushcart

Featured Artist in KYSO Flash (Issue 12, Summer 2019); showcasing Beckemeyer’s poetry, prose poetry, and insect photography

Words for Snow, a prose poem in KYSO Flash (Issue 9, Spring 2018), which was selected for reprinting in The Best Small Fictions 2019

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