Spittle Bug

I watched an insect dive
upside down in a crystal bowl.
Magnified, it resembled
a friend’s identity crisis—
red eyes, amorphous body
arched like a scorpion.
Probing the water with an iris stem,
I rescued the swimmer,
helped it crawl to the vase lip,
that complimented myself, as if
the bug were my own invention.
It rested on the flower’s parchment,
hyperventilating, while I went off
to a day’s work. When I returned
it had climbed higher, slathering
purple flesh with froth. Stalled
in one spot like an indulgent head
lost in shampoo, it had taken
the sweet petals with it,
rolling them in babble,
till they were stunted and scabbed.
It looked so harmless at first
roiling in its own spit,
I think I shall call it
gossip bug.

Sandra Alcosser
from her book Except By Nature
Graywolf Press, 1998
Used by permission of the poet.

For a Science Classroom

Lesson Plan for Sandra Alcosser’s “Spittle Bug”
by Gina Ferrara

Sandra Alcosser’s descriptive poem “Spittle Bug” is a wonderful poem to introduce to students when they begin studying insects in science class. This poem could also be used in an English class when discussing personification. Have students read the poem to themselves and then ask for a few volunteers to read it aloud. Find pictures of a spittle bug to show on Smartboard while discussing the poem.

To generate discussion, think about asking some of the questions below.

What type of identity does Alcosser give to the spittle bug?

What sort of qualities does the bug have?

What are some of its entomological characteristics?

What are some of its human characteristics?

How does the behavior of the spittle bug differ from the speaker’s behavior?

Do they share anything in common?

Have students write a poem from the perspective of the spittle bug. What would the spittle bug say?

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