The Parliament of Insects

Stephen Jackson

London, United Kingdom

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Artist's Description

With some trepidation, I’m beginning to upload work which I do as an Outsider artists – not pretty-pretty, this stuff, but reflections on an introspective state. In the Nineteenth Century, symbolism was all the rage: Now it has been consigned to a private taboo. Perhaps a polite and embarrassed silence will be all that awaits it on Red Bubble?

This was an illustration to an early poem of mine, which is printed below. I remembered Odilon Redon’s lithograph, The Spider, and I wanted to create something which might provoke a similar sudder of revulsion. The truth is, of course, that insects are merely automata: bejewelled robots, if you like, fumbling from A to B on microscopic and private business. Let’s leave them be. But here’s the poem:

THE PARLIAMENT OF INSECTS

Imagine, if you will,
The copulation of flies.
The machinery of how
Their horrid glances meet:
Flirting, the way cadavers might
If you gave them electric shocks.
Behold their bristling embrace,
Hard, mechanistic lusts -

Lascivious, staccato.
With moon-looming eyes
Too lamplike-gloomy to leer.
Within, a shiver of poison green as sap.

The politics of insects
Are dismal affairs.
They have no breath, you know; debates are scant.
A dialectic, theirs, of rasping limbs:
Their treaties are the rhetoric of instinct:
The reflexes of nothing more than
Chemistry, and vermicelli genes,
Besotted, lovelessly, with instinct’s strident propaganda,
Squirting sperm whilst spongy flesh
Is guzzled, nipped away.
A puritan’s grotesque, in fancy dress –
No soft cheeks, here, for lovers to touch or hold.
Instead, the clockwork grimace
Of an armoured face, a gourd
Of pus and fossil leather, and obsession.

Some of them creep their way through libraries,
Connoisseurs of incomprehension,
Feasting nightly on newspaper obituaries:
Their emblemed armour burnished,
Their predator’s antennae crisp
As a metronome’s predestined tick.
Their Chancellor, meanwhile, wearies of his
Multitudes, clambering in dogged engrossment, to
Fulfil their Five-Year Plan; knowing
- Or knowing not – what they do…
That work will make you free.
Free, as mayflies are, for a day.

The ranks themselves have little room
For irony. It’s not the stuff they
Serve up on parade.
It lacks the imperative mood.
Their Lord Protector, liege of all surveyed,
(Who keeps ears on his legs)
Cannot secrete it, put it by,
For late denunciations.
Betraying a clamour of fables,
It’s irony that sets no honeyed words –
One has to be in the know;
Whilst insect rallies cram the boulevards
So lately hemmed by corpses,
Or enemies stripped, already, for ravenous mouths.
For, in this kingdom, nothing goes to waste.
The system runs on time.
Rigour and freedom seldom coincide;
Both shun the possibility of despair.
But arthropods, they’re are as sincere as
Advertisers. As marketing men, riding
A nervous breakdown.

I killed a bluebottle the other day.
It sat there, all complacent
Like an undetected criminal,
A gobbet of filth.
An animation of shit and grime,
Thinking it was like a normal man.
Presuming it could still
Smile at its future,
Just like the rest of us –

I made sure it was finished.
My belief is, Providence gave a hand.
We were both so lucky,
I and the fly,
To be at the right place
At the right time.

May 2001

Artwork Comments

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