Becoming (grandiose caterpillars)

By Jo Langdon

11 November, 2022

Jo Langdon is Running Dog’s poet in residence for October and November 2022.

Each month, a poet produces new work, which is distributed via Running Dog’s monthly newsletter—Stray. If you haven’t already, sign up to our newsletter.

•   •   •

after Helen Johnson (partially),
                                       & for Leah Jackson


Each leaf, square, thumb
                                   (as though under tissue
                                                           paper   clouds)
what begins, this

—doubled, pitted;

irrevocably—‘the mother, a figure’
that figures, that does.

October on the balcony
where A builds ‘a castle
for the rain to live in’;

paving towards what D dubs
Easter Beach, good eggs

each other on—hatching
ice-cream plots
          for the ‘hot day’.

Each street, glare, sun:
possums leave
all kinds of litter                     —little shits—

amid the cockies’
confetti shook green
from the (golden) elms.

Each sweep, lair, hum
of wing, looking—like
Clare Vaizey—‘at people,

weeds, traffic, flowers
and clouds’, before

be/witched hours, breathing
‘darkness, grass, trees and sea.’1 

In their layers, the polymer-paint
caterpillars evoke

tender impressions, even
as I might mistake them
for turds

given generously
to garden beds.

There visibly, the latch: engagement
onomatopoetic, lifting
‘nerve-thoughts in the blood’2

(The baby
neither gate nor door unlocking,

irrevocable, going
only onward.)

Each screech, tear, run—loose
stitch of syntax
bringing worlds afresh:

like the oyster that left
such an impression
but now evades me, its

mouthful of
cream & seawater, 
source-text elusive…

Arriving at
‘a glade in the language’3,
101 Unfinished Conversations

but never lacunae, no—easy
interlocutor, A aloft
over pansy pots: ‘Hello! Tangelo!’

To the admired cat: ‘Who’s
your beautiful name?’

& overheard
          through ply:

‘Someone fell over.
It was Djuna. So I gave her
a tissue to dry her tears. Kiss
kiss                  kiss.’

In gentle progression
‘a plum falls on a marshmallow’4;

every body given
its own sun, shining
in chalk by D              —this season / of sequins—

Each sweet pair becom
-ing gaudy lepidoptera, they/we are





  1. Quoted lines from Elizabeth Harrower’s The Watch Tower (Melbourne: Text Publishing, 1966/2012), pp. 83, 152.
  2. From Lorine Niedecker’s ‘SPIRALS / Promise of Brilliant Funeral’ in her Collected Works (Oakland, University of California Press, 2002), edited by Jenny Penberthy, p. 24.
  3. Quote from Inger Christensen’s poem ‘Light’, in translation and edited by Gordon Walmsley, Fire & Ice: Nine Poets from Scandinavia and the North, (Cliffs of Moher, Ireland: Salmon Publishing, 2005), p. 51.
  4. Niedecker, p. 24