When God does the beetles,
They line up at the door of his workshop,
All a plain unfinished buffy color.
The line snakes away into the distance.
God calls, “Okay, ready!”
And the first one goes in and climbs up on God’s workbench.
God has his cuffs rolled up above his elbows
And his long white hair tied back in a ponytail.
He adjusts his magnifier,
Says, “Now then, hold real still,”
And takes up a small tool
With which he delicately carves row after row of tiny dots
On the beetle’s elongated back.
Then he pushes the magnifier away,
And with a bit of sponge
He paints a subtle all-over camouflage pattern
In ashy gray, dark brown, soft black.
Gently God blows on the beetle to dry it.
Then it crawls to the open window,
Lifts its newly limned wing cases,
Spreads its splendid lucid wings,
Begins to buzz and at the same time
Releases its claw-hold on the window frame
And launches forth,
Out through the wonderful transparent air
To the brown and green world below.
When God has seen it well on its way,
He calls again, “Okay, ready!”
And the next little creature comes, a small round domed one.
It turns this way and that
As God carefully paints its legs and body black.
He takes up an old brush that has just a few hairs
And adds some touches of pure white.
He chooses bright red for the wing cases.
He pauses, hand hovering,
Then dips a small round brush into the black paint
And gently dots it onto the red.
God has used quick-drying paint,
And as soon as the wing cases are ready,
He waxes and polishes them
Until this three-part animal shines like a jewel.
At last it too is done and flies away,
Elytra opened like pocket-watch covers,
Wings a blurred fan of exhilaration.
The next one, a small straight-sided oval, comes
And is neatly painted a shiny iridescent green all over.
And so it goes all day long.
One after another the beetles get fixed up,
Each one different,
And set out to seek their fortunes.
When the last one has gone,
God leans back,
Stretching luxuriantly and yawning.
“Well, that was fun,” he says.
Slowly he puts everything away,
Cleaning and lining up his tools,
Capping his paints,
Washing and pointing his brushes,
Scraping his palette.
He scrubs the paint off his hands.
He undoes his ponytail and shakes out his hair.
Then he goes off to get a little supper,
And someone says, “How many beetles?”
And God just shrugs and smiles, and says, “God alone knows.”