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Duration:02:41
Uploaded:2020-06-22
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Hank Green reads Charles Goodrich's poem, "A Lecture on Aphids".

Brought to you by Complexly, The Poetry Foundation, and poet Paige Lewis. Learn more: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/

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Hello.  I'm Hank Green.  This poem is by my grandfather's brother's son, so a member of like, a fairly close member of my family.  It was one of the first poems I read as an adult, like, outside of the, the like, structure of school and one of the very first poems I enjoyed at all, and I enjoyed it because it's about like, how cool bugs are, which I love, and it's also about like, knowing stuff but also being wrong at the same time, like, like, being wrong while you're right, and it's about foolishness.

It's called "A Lecture on Aphids" by Charles Goodrich.

She plucks my sleeve.
Young man, she says, you need to spray.
You have aphids on your roses.  

In a dark serge coat and a pill-box hat
by god it's my third-grade Sunday-school teacher,
shrunken but still stern, the town's 
most successful corporate attorney's mother.
She doesn't remember me.  I holster
my secateurs, smile publicly, 
and reply, Ma'am,

did you know that a female aphid is born 
carrying fertile eggs?  Come look.
There may be five or six generations
cheek by jowl on this "Peace" bud.
Don't they remind you
of refugees 
crowding on the deck of a tramp steamer?
Look through my hand lens--
they're transulcent.  You can see their dark innards 
like kidneys in aspic.

Yes, ma'am, they are full time inebriates,
and unashamed of their nakedness.
But isn't there something wild and uplifting
about their complete indifference
to the human prospect?

And then I do something wicked.  Ma'am, I say,
I love aphids!  And I squeeze 
a few dozen from the nearest bud
and eat them.

After the old woman scuttles away
I feel ill
and sit down to consider
what comes next.  You see,
aphids
aren't sweet
as I had always imagined.
Even though rose wine is their only food.
aphids
are bitter.