The Gaining of Wisdom, by Alan Toltzis

The Gaining of Wisdom
by Alan Toltzis

Stuffing one last bit
of moist green leaf into his bulging maw,
caterpillar felt something
he was full.

His fearsome, snake-eyed skin
and split
as he spit a filament-wide hammock
that solidified in midair.
More goo buttoned him to a twig
among his lacy chronicles
of nonstop feasting.

Muscular, peristaltic wriggling
rid him of his last rag of beauty.
It fell away
revealing the luminous, ringed sarcophagus
that was always within.

Immobile and shielded,
he would never eat again
or crawl,
or spin.

By knowing what was inside him,
was about to change.

Process Notes: The poem itself went through a lot of change and revision. It started as an exploration of whether we can truly be aware of another’s needs. I then started wondering about self awareness and if we could anticipate our own needs as we change and grow. That led me to the caterpillar and the striking differences as it changes from caterpillar to chrysalis. The poem ended up saying something different about beauty and how it can hamper and then lead to self-discovery and appreciation of differences.

Alan Toltzis is the author of the book of poems, The Last Commandment. His work has appeared in print and online journals including The Provo Canyon Review, The Red Wolf Literary Journal, Poetica, and Burningword Literary Journal. Visit him online at


One thought on “The Gaining of Wisdom, by Alan Toltzis

  1. Alan , I really can relate to this. One is constantly changing, and you don’t know if it’s for the better or worse. I have changed, I understand more , but I feel I’ve lost precious time and abilities and with aging; opportunities. I want to mend some fences, and some I still want to joust with. I can’t over accelerate trying to catch up with the rest of the world now, or I will go backwards. I am slowing down.

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