Botfly – by Katherine Anderson Howell


I obsess about the botfly.
Catching mosquitos to carry
her eggs, which hatch
on warm skin, enter
via the holes left by proboscises.
The larva will chew its way out,
a head out of an ankle
like a train from a mountain tunnel.

More accurate: I am phobic
of the botfly. I know little
of its habitat but think of it
when some flying thing brushes
my leg, when my son complains
of bees, ants, or moths.

I have never seen a botfly larva.
I cannot bring myself to look.
I already know it well, the desire
to crawl inside someone else
and gnaw my way out.
What good would it do me
to see my own worm face?

My son picks at his bug bites,
his sanctity scratched until
bloody. He excoriates his skin,
wounds his own nose, scalp.
Splits open his toe, scratches
hangnails until rawness sides his fingers.

He can never know about botflies.
How can I tell him it is possible
for something besides himself
to live in his skin?




Katherine Anderson Howell writes and parents in Washington, D.C. A recovering academic, she has published in academic journals and presses. Her work in non-academic genres can be found in Women in Higher Education, The Rumpus, and Snapdragon: A Journal of Arts and Healing.