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Advice from a Caterpillar

  • Chew your way into a new world.
  • Munch leaves. Molt. Rest. Molt
  • again. Self-reinvention is everything.
  • Spin many nests. Cultivate stinging
  • bristles. Don’t get sentimental
  • about your discarded skins. Grow
  • quickly. Develop a yen for nettles.
  • Alternate crumpling and climbing. Rely
  • on your antennae. Sequester poisons
  • in your body for use at a later date.
  • When threatened, emit foul odors
  • in self-defense. Behave cryptically 
  • to confuse predators: change colors, spit,
  • or feign death. If all else fails, taste terrible.

Amy Gerstler is the author of more than 14 collections of poetry. Her poetry collection Bitter Angel, published by North Point Press, won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1991. Her most recent book of poems is Dearest Creature (Penguin). In June 2015, Penguin will publish a new book of her poems entitled Scattered at Sea. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Paris Review, Poetry, American Poetry Review, and elsewhere. She teaches at the University of California at Irvine. “Advice from a Caterpillar” is from her 2009 collection Dearest Creature and is used by permission of Penguin, a division of Penguin Group (USA) LLC.

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