V  P  R

Contemporary Poetry and Poetics





It's eating the air.  Cell by cell, 
tiered hexagons take over, tumorous and hollow, 
and still I forbid you to destroy them. 
I clean the glass over and over to remove all smudges and dust 
from my display case for the queen's brood.  I do it 
to glide my finger over the nest 
down to the thorax and pinched waists 
of the wasps who, breaking from their labor, crawl along the pane 
and finally fly through the screen's tear 
and away from me, trembling at the ledge. 
How cold they seem: their bronze-black flesh 
guarded by that smooth pin, source 
of poison and offspring. 
The blessing of winged life: 
to have wisps of limbs, 
to hatch into a haze of black flight breathing spring 
with all its seeds and blooming colors. 
I retreat to your body, as if your embrace 
could stop the choke of pollen 
or slow the yearly thaw 
that cues the queens to leave their nests 
and roam the flowers for mates.  All that fathering 
and so few queens.  Is that the privilege 
or the price of her royalty?
Does she even notice me, 
so close to her kingdom I fog the pane with my breath? 
Would she lead an attack against me, 
wait for me at the door or wait for a forgetful slip÷ 
a tired hand cracking the window, 
my wrist exposed to her nuns 
whose sterile stingers only hunt and burn: 
the attack always plural, 
arms pocked with fires under the skin.  Such fierce mothering, 
it frightens you.  Touch the glass, ticking with their heat, all of it 
from these virgin mothers 
who warm the eggs by flapping their flight muscles . . . 
warmer . . . warmer . . . lean my body into the window, 
slide your hand down to my pulse, a pull 
toward the pane.  Let me taste the sweat of your fear. 
When I can feel 
your heart aching against my back,
why search for the good? 
Why defend my creatures 
who'd be bare without their needles of venom, 
who can't even boast the yellow beauty of bees, 
not even the hum that warns?  Because wasps are quiet. 
I love them.  They are my darkness.

© by Pamela Garvey


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