The Wasp


As I was reading, a wasp lit on the page
Whose burden was that man knows nothing, nothing,
And slowly walked across. And at the edge

It paused to reconsider. I paused too.
I took it for a marginal annotation.
I let the text go and I read the wasp.

Or rather say, I tried to read the wasp.
I turned the book this way and that the way
A child might try a Greek word upside-down.

I counted feelers, wings, and legs, for letters.
I looked it in the eye but could not tell
Whether for certain it returned my look.

Perhaps the gist of what the side-note said
Was that a wasp cold read the printed word
As well as man could read the total world.

Or else the meaning may have been that man,
If he knows nothing, knows that he knows nothing,
Whereas the wasp knows only what it knows.


Robert Francis, Robert Francis: Collected Poems, 1936-1976, University of Massachusetts Press, 1985.