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How the Toktokie Beetle of Africa Prays for a Drink


Image by Emanuel Rodríguez

Nightly the chill Namibian sea

Sends a welcome onshore breeze

And with it a thick, wet fog,

Heaven’s gift of moisture

To the desert Skeleton Coast.
And here the well-named toktokie

Beetle prays with its legs in the air.

After an evening of love, clicking their

Tok-tok call to attract any willing mates,

They will climb to the crest of a dune,

Face east, bow their heads to the ground,-

Legs straight up, and pray to the god

Of water. Tiny fog-droplets
Gather on legs and carapace,

Awaiting sufficient mass
For gravity to pull them down

Toward a thousand thirsting mouths.

They drink until full, half-doubling

Their body weight, then burrow

Into the sand for a cooling

And contented day of rest.

Not a bad life, this.

Randel McCraw Helms is retired from Arizona State University’s English Department. His recent poems have appeared in such places as “Dappled Things,” “Blood & Bourbon,” and “Silkworm.”

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