HORNETS

They simmered up the window panes

inside my uncle’s farmhouse,

their black pointed tails curling

against the sun stained curtain lace

in the bedroom where we had been jailed

for an afternoon nap.

In those summers before the family scattered

into suburban cul-de-sacs and air-conditioned bungalows,

we believed their fearsome power

had been summoned to hold us there.

We heard our mothers shuffle pots

on a wood stove, slam pie plates into the oven,

rattle silver and dishes for the evening meal.

Through the window I saw a real bluebird

hang over the brown, rutted barnyard and disappear

behind jalopies half sunken on bone naked axels,

gouged windshields and amputated doors.

Cousins and brothers, we sweltered

in the musk of stale wallpaper paste,

then broke with the past, slid

off the cast iron bed, howled

as they stung our naked feet,

their wings slapping the wooden floor.

Even now at reunions, we hold the tender skin

of our arches up to the light,

marvel at the terror branded

in those thin white scars.

 

 

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