It’s as welcoming as a mother, but none of this was personal.

When a tsetse fly

chews your skin with its scissor teeth, through delicate capillaries for the sweet stain of red, it does so completely in earnest.

It ushers in the flagellate protozoan Trypanosoma brucei gambiense. Those misshapen parentheses swim — and they must swim — through passageways, the secrets of your body. The tsetse fly is long gone by the time your central nervous system starts to stutter.

A child catching her breath over the steep hill of a consonant.

What the doctors call sleeping sickness is to the tsetse fly nothing more than the squeal of a hawk catching a barn mouse. Life carrying itself out.

Take comfort when you lie awake at night, terrors marauding through brain tissue before the coma, devoted as a mother, arms reaching wide, comes to claim you.

None of this was personal.


Mari Pack’s work has appeared in Yes, Poetry, Quail Bell Magazine, and others. The Description of a New World, her first chapbook, was published by Dancing Girl Press in 2019. Mari is an editor for Guideposts.


Featured image by Dhruv Patel.